I’d like to start off by saying that I am one of you. I was born in 1998, and for most of my teenage years, I scoffed at the idea of being associated with the younger part of this generation (as every angsty teenager has). As someone born in the cusp between millennials and our generation, I remember the time before my identity became downloadable on the internet. I ran around outside for hours every day after school, I had to press the numbers on my cellphone 9 times to spell “F-R-A-N,” and my MySpace Top Eight was how I gauged my friendships.
But for each “millennial” experience I had growing up, I have tens, if not hundreds more “Gen-Z” experiences from my most formative years. I entered high school using an iPhone 4G, I transitioned from Facebook to Instagram, I (shamelessly) learned how to renegade in my bathroom mirror, and I identify as a digital native. Technology “grew up” at the same time I did, and neither of us has stopped developing into our full capabilities.
The older generations like to criticize ours, using our collective dependence on technology as a scapegoat. “Your eyes hurt because you’re always on your phone!” “Kids these days are ruining everything because they only spend time on social media.” “Playing video games all day won’t get you anywhere.” “Your generation doesn’t care about anything besides likes and followers.” I could give more examples, but some folks who claim to be more mature than us use language too inappropriate to put on this blog.
The fact of the matter is, our generation has been forced into adulthood -- just like every generation says about themselves. Unlike those who grew up during the Cold War, our coming-of-age occurred under different circumstances, except this time, it’s broadcasted for the whole world to see.
A majority of us grew up through the 2008 financial crisis, and while we weren’t the ones to lose our jobs, we saw our families and the world panic around us. We grew up being taught that it was our job to fix the environmental problems that were passed down from older generations and large corporations. We are seeing, firsthand, how racial issues are still present in the United States, after being taught in our history classes that it was all over once segregation ended. We dutifully -- and bravely -- showed up to school after seeing news reports of children our age or even younger being gunned down for attending school.
So what if we like to dance for TikTok? Who cares if we participate in online trends? Can’t we have a little fun, especially given that living our childhoods is seen to be less valuable than the right to own a firearm in the United States?
Besides, we are a generation of action. We don’t care for the bullshit that brands spew about “social good” without proving the actions behind their words. We’ve created and stood behind activists of our own generation, such as Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, who are just some among many faces of outspoken Gen-Zs. According to a study by BBMG:
“Gen Z is twice as likely as any other generation to care more about issues of equality. Gen Z is also more likely to say it can make a difference on issues through its own online efforts, a claim made by 43% of this generation versus 30% for all others.”
We love to use our voices, and the internet serves to amplify us. We make the older generations so angry because we as a generation are constantly demanding action, calling out injustices, and holding people accountable for their wrongdoings -- all while having fun alongside it. We haven’t forgotten how to be kids, we just know the value of our words.
Here’s to pissing off the older generation. We’re going to be in their shoes in a matter of years, and it’s important to remember how we’ve pushed against the examples set for us. Instead of thinking how we can set better examples for the future generations when we’re older, let’s start thinking in the present. Is what I’m doing making me happy? What do I love? What are the problems I’m seeing in the world right now? What inspires me? How can I use my unique skill set to build new industries, to innovate existing ones, and to change how people think?
Keep doing and being you. The world needs our voices more than ever.