If you’ve been on the internet for any length of time, it’s likely you’ve run into content with “Gen Z” plastered across the front. If you’ve dodged all the articles, conversations, and advertisements, gen z stands for generation z otherwise known as “iGen” or Zoomer. Typically born between the mid-1990s and 2010s, these kids are the first generation to grow up with the internet. Because of their unique position, they’re also the most documented generation to date. As anyone with a social media account will attest, there are pros and cons to this type of exposure.
Should you choose to scour the internet for information, it wouldn’t take long to stumble upon grievances, accusations, and frustration. Many misconceptions include isolation and apathy from technology addiction, generalized laziness, and a learned intolerance. Contrary to these claims, there are countless examples of selfless unity, stress (or burnout) from juggling multiple jobs, and an open acceptance of presenting mental or physical health concerns. With a total of two billion young persons categorized as part of gen z, roughly 61 million of them entered the workforce alongside the first outbreak of covid. Regardless of where this article takes us, you can rest assured that gen z will rise above adversity.
“We unify and get things accomplished, we never let anyone or anything stop us.” - Julia Danois
As mentioned, gen z hasn't been dealt the kindest hand. They've lived through the tragedy of 9/11 (2001) and watched The Great Recession (beginning in 2008-2009) unfold, all while adapting quite admirably to rapid technological advances, social injustice, and an increase in school shootings (which have more than doubled during their lifetime). Then, as if it wasn't stressful enough, these kids stepped into the workforce and were blind-sided by a worldwide pandemic that slayed millions. Yet, they prevail.
So... What drives them? According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Gen Z showed an active interest in healthcare, mental health, higher education, economic security, civic engagement, racial justice, and the environment. While these social issues (mostly) mirror the concerns of millennials, gen z built its reputation by advocating for change in front of a worldwide audience.
Behavioral scientist Roberta Katz wrote a book entitled Gen Z, Explained: The Art of Living In A Digital Age (2021). Since then she's gone on to do a few interviews discussing her research and findings. In every appearance, it's clear that gen z uses its collective voice to press importance on diversity and inclusion through compassion, acceptance, and self-sufficiency.
“I also think that our differences bring us together. Gen Z can also form connections with each other because many of us have gone through similar situations that have shown us where change needs to be made in our society today.” - Adriana Pena
Contrary to popular opinion, Gen Z's relationship with technology opens doors for outreach and communication that would otherwise take months (if sent through post) or silenced (dependent on several factors). Gen Z has continued to place emphasis on "finding their own identities and respecting the identities of others". If the entire world was waiting at your fingertips, how would you harness it? Luckily for us, Gen Z has already begun to lay down the groundwork.
Activism is described as the use of "vigorous campaigning" to bring about political or social change. Gen Z took it a step further by coining digital activism, which places activists in front of a much wider audience. This magazine lists popular activist movements led by gen z while they were still attending high school, the article features the phrase "A Decade of Change".
Alice Walker, an American novelist, is credited for stating the following: "Activism is my rent for living on the planet". It seems Gen Z agrees. My favorite examples of digital activism include when Gen Z organized and led marches nationwide, challenged world leaders, and launched a feminist movement. In the spirit of neutrality, the Council on Foreign Relations has an article depicting digital activism and exploring its impact from different angles.
“I think Gen Z is quick to turn to activism in the face of trauma because we’ve grown up seeing tragedies left and right,” - Jaclyn Corin
Saul Alinksy, an American activist (1909-1972), is credited for saying, "Change means movement. Movement means friction." This feels accurate, even seed planting requires the gardener to disrupt the patch of dirt they want to work in. It shouldn't be too surprising that with all the changes inspired by Gen Z, there's more than a little pushback.
It's been said that the sheer size (and collective voice) of Gen Z can be intimidating. In fact, in my research, I came across a whole new category of work-related issues I wasn't aware existed. Floating around the interweb is an article (2023) that depicts an increase in apprehension when asked to meet with Gen Z employees or coworkers. The authors look at Gen Z's communication technique, the wide generational gap, and the responses of older generations.
In situations where the generational gap is more pronounced, they state, "Puzzled and fearful, older people then enter cross-generational conversations inauthentically or completely avoid them.". This sentence threw me for a loop and raised several questions about healthy communication. Regardless of your communication preferences, the article is informative and would be a good resource for anyone that's struggling to interact with people that possess a different worldview. It's also great at challenging personal bias, which is imperative for any form of growth.
Unfortunately, not all disagreements can be solved with a quick chat, and not everyone is willing to contribute to those discussions. When this happens, Gen Z votes with their feet. There are obvious pros and cons to this response, but society seems laser-focused on the dramatic drop in "loyalty" that I'm not sure they've earned. Despite the reputation assigned to youth for "job hopping" and a questionable work ethic, Gen Z continues to explore jobs with opportunities for career growth and roughly 50% of them juggle more than one source of income. Despite (or in spite of) the adversities they face, Gen Z is resilient.
“Most people, in general fields, need to understand that our generation tends to have unconventional ways of doing things,” - Goswami
Gen Z took the phrase "I wish" and threw it to the wind. They prioritize diversity, demand authenticity, and are motivated by equity. When they have a reason, they launch into action. To me, it's apparent: if you want to benefit from the strength of Gen Z, you have to consider the world they're building. There are many misconceptions about who they are and what they hope to accomplish, but we shouldn't feel discouraged from starting a conversation. As long as we navigate discussions with genuine interest, the answers are rarely more than a few taps away.
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