Aesthetics, self-deprecating jokes and a love-hate relationship with the internet: this is Generation Z. Or as I like to call it, generation Zeitgeist, for reasons that I am about to get into right now.
Gen Z must be the most bizarre generation to the eye of the beholder: a group of people that were born in 1994-2010, have not known life without the internet, at some point ate tide pods for fun, jokes about death & mental health, protests against any form of social alienation while being too shy to ask for a napkin at the restaurant. The dynamics of our generation are a ray of encouragement as well as a cry for help.
As the generation born with the dawn of 9/11 and the war on terror, our upbringing set around the stage of the 2008 economic crash, we are people raised in a world where danger, threat and violence is not only possible in person but online too. As the years when parents would leave their children run off to the street with their friends until the sunset, seem like an occurrence out of a fantasy novel, our life experiences and lessons became a tangent of the screen. This has been highlighted especially during the last year or so, where the epitome of online life was met, when school, commerce and communication through the internet became the norm.
There is a very dystopian nature surrounding our generation. With the normalisation of the internet as a pivotal point in our lives, with communication, entertainment and more recently education almost entirely reliant on it, our freedom and capabilities have exceeded what previous generations would fathom impossible, in just over a decade. Being born in the age of misinformation, we are accustomed to fake news and the attempts the media take to manipulate popular opinion and belief, therefore identifying it and calling it out minutes after it has been brought to the light of the internet. Additionally, benefiting from the phenomenon of overconnectivity with every inch of the world, we make worldwide efforts for social awareness possible and with enormous impact.
The Black Lives Matter movement began from a video shared on the internet that later became the very starting point of millions of protests, fundraisers, and campaigns worldwide. And this is just an example. More recently, publications have been circling regarding laws being passed in numerous US states against trans rights, and the members of the online community have not stayed quiet. Environmental issues have also been addressed as numerous fundraisers and volunteer communities are active through online platforms.
The thing is, as online life has become our reality, and we are indulged more and more into it because of circumstance, we manage to make the best of it by radically expressing what we collectively think is wrong with this world and fighting to make it right at the same time.
However, this great gift comes with an equally great cost. According to an American Psychological Association: “Gen Z is the least likely to report good or excellent mental health”. More specifically, according to Business Insider 22% of Gen Z suffers from depression and 26% from anxiety. In addition to these problems, the experience of the pandemic has seen the numbers rise significantly, compared to other generational groups while the uncertainty surrounding our times aggravates their condition. Questions constantly arise regarding our future jobs, education, interactions as well as the self-sacrifices that we will have to make for the general good, all that while being confined to our house. Growing up afraid in a world of instability and constant panic: this is what actually plagues Generation Z.
It is not expected for our elders to subconsciously understand our crisis or worries. We collectively understand that the generation gap, especially regarding mental problems and fears, needs to be bridged by both sides. But what we receive instead is an unspeakable amount of hate and the accusation of being “excessively dramatic”, “careless” or that we “only care about ourselves”. This isn’t new; critique of the younger generations by their elders is not an alien concept to our timeline, as the needs, goals, intrigues and experiences of each generation differ, often to a significant degree and even more often causing a clash. However, the case with Gen Z stepped out of this expected line of criticism a long time ago and it shows no signs of stopping. Except if we do what we do best as a generation: fight for what is right.
The highest chance is that you, who are reading this article, are a member of Generation Z and probably identify with most of what I have listed above. You feel alone, enclosed, uncertain and afraid for reasons you sometimes cannot even describe. Everything going on right now looks unstable and chaotic. Our situation can get better if we decide to make a small first step towards bridging the gap. We need to respond to hate with truth, we need to make other generations witness what our minds constantly go through. Let’s be the bigger person and give them a piece of the chaos surging in our heads in any possible form: discussions, online forums, publications, Twitter threads or any other way it can be shared. Silence is our worst enemy, so it's time to speak our minds, to live up to our names, this time for our own good.