Leia Gluckman staff writer
In an age where technology is on the rise and where teens are more politically engaged, Generation Z is being raised in a fast-changing and frightening world. The Baby Boomers had World War II; Gen X had the Cold War, Millennials had 9/11, and Gen Z has Brexit and the Trump Administration. The challenges facing Gen Z are arguably more daunting than those faced by past generations.
The constant media coverage of the chaos and confusion of the Trump Administration has prompted more activism in response to a deep distrust in government. This is particularly challenging when that distrust is due in part to opposite motivations: on one hand, there are those who have a fear of losing progressive rights due to changes in the executive and judicial branches, and on the other there are those who sincerely agree with Trump’s politics and have a deep distrust of the Democratic house.
There are also pressures from the constant media attention on global instability whether from US trade conflicts, climate change and the increasing severity of natural disasters, or political instability in Europe and the middle east.
Gen Z is facing these unique crises that they aren’t really sure how to address.
In addition, Gen Z has to face these matters in the context of their own unique attributes.
According to Miranda Sachs of the Washington Post, Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history. Even with greater tolerance and exposure to diversity, Gen Z is a less happy generation. Caelainn Barr of The Guardian claims that this generation is “connected yet isolated, savvy but anxious, [and] indulged yet stressed.”
Remy Blumenfeld from Forbes describes millennials as “digital pioneers,” and labels Gen Z as “the first true digital natives” claiming that they have never “[known] a time without technology at their fingertips,” and that they “demand seamless, on-demand connectivity 24/7.” His noting of the technological dependency of Gen Z isn’t unique.
Ryan Jenkins, referencing a Pew study as part of his support, notes that the fear of missing out, or FOMO, is far more prominent in teens today than in past generations. Combining technologically imposed anxiety with a ridiculously unstable world, Blumenfeld labels Gen Z as “a scared generation, cautious and hardened by economic and social turbulence.”
Gen Z is overwhelmed.So how will Gen-Z address this confusing world?
Technology gives them a great tool for marketing and advocacy. Their greater diversity could give them a greater ability to empathize with different backgrounds and perspectives. But babies are being handed iPhones to stop their crying making them even more technologically dependent; toys are made automated. E-sports are an increasingly popular way for people to bond; Netflix and TV show binging has become an escape from life’s pressures. Gen Z is either distracting themselves or taking action.
Even with climate change awareness on the rise and the ‘trendiness’ of being environmentally friendly with metal straws and going vegan, much of the action being taken is done indirectly through social media.
The lower degree of happiness referenced by Barr could also result in an increase in young women and men reaching out for support to deal with a variety of issues ranging from self-esteem to depression, according to a CNN article. Beverly students are fortunate enough to have access to Norman Aid, but other Gen Z-ers don’t necessarily have the same option.
What is made evident by the unstable world around is that Gen Z must remain active, must remain aware, and must remain loud. Being passive and staying silent is no longer an option. Now is the time to step into the sun and away from computers, to raise the attention of the generations that came before us and each other to build stronger connections of support to conquer the challenges of today and ahead of us.