Practicing Information Sensibility: How Gen Z Engages with Online Information

Amelia Hassoun
Ian Beacock
Beth Goldberg
Patrick Gage Kelley
Daniel M. Russell
ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems(2023)


Assessing the trustworthiness of information online is complicated. Literacy-based paradigms are both widely used to help and widely critiqued. We conducted a study with 35 Gen Zers from across the U.S. to understand how they assess information online. We found that they tended to encounter—rather than search for—information, and that those encounters were shaped more by social motivations than by truth-seeking queries. For them, information processing is fundamentally a social practice. Gen Zers interpreted online information together, as aspirational members of social groups. Our participants sought information sensibility: a socially-informed awareness of the value of information encountered online. We outline key challenges they faced and practices they used to make sense of information. Our findings suggest that like their information sensibility practices, solutions and strategies to address misinformation should be embedded in social contexts online.