wtf are gen-zs anyway?

by Bryant
June 25, 2021

So who exactly are Gen-Zs?

If they are playing video games while studying geometry, doing their Spanish homework while listening to K-pop, or doing their Korean homework while listening to reggaetón, they’re probably Gen-Z.

If they are out organizing donation drives at their school, protesting, and advocating for their underrepresented peers, they’re probably Gen-Z.

If they are somehow, somehow able to communicate with their peers through TikTok dancing, strange movie quotes, incoherent screeching, and frog images, they’re definitely Gen-Z.

If they were born in 1996 and onwards, they’re Gen-Z (Pew Research Center).

Gen-Z is known as the first digitally native generation. To anyone Gen-X and older, that means that Gen-Z “can’t get off their damn phones.” To Gen-Z, that means we know the digital space so well that we can disrupt Trump’s Tulsa rally without even leaving our home.

Naturally this means that we spend more time on the internet than generations prior, and it has come with some great perks. For starters, our meme culture is impeccable. While memes are generally not Gen-Z specific, memes have become integrated into our culture, and serve as a critical part of how we interact with each other. For our generation, memes are no longer a monolith. Memes have generally split into different eras, genres, styles, and mediums, becoming a landscape of its own.

Take something like cornn flaek:

It's a surreal meme that has been deep fried and exists in both image and video format. What is it depicting? Doesn't really matter. What does it mean? Absolutely nothing. What it’s purpose? We’ll leave that up to you. But anything that remotely references the meme, such as imitating the pose or even saying “cornn flaek” is enough to get a laugh out of anyone who understands. It’s not just memes either. Viral videos seen on Twitter, Youtube, TikTok, and in the past, Vine, have created slang and dance moves that dominate Gen-Z culture today.

While our incomprehensible, meaningless humor may seem relatively disturbing, lazy, even disrespectful or a waste of time, Gen-Z is also a generation of action. With the COVID-19 pandemic (and 2020 in general) being branded as the pivotal coming-of-age event for this generation, more and more Gen-Zs are springing into action.

Besides just entertainment, the Internet serves as Gen-Z’s most powerful tool as well. Even over the past 15 years, technology has advanced so rapidly that the internet has become bigger and more accessible than ever before. Because the internet is a vessel of near endless information, becoming knowledgeable on almost any topic is easier than ever. As Donald Miller put it best, “In an age of information, ignorance is a choice.”

Now, kids are expected to know more and do more in less time, despite the fact that even though there have been large technological advances, the world has been slow to adapt to them. So it should come as no surprise that Gen-Z is also on track to be the most entrepreneurial generation yet, with kids as young as 6 having found success with their businesses.

This entrepreneurial mindset extends past just business as well. Many Gen-Z’s have become leaders for social causes–many of which directly impact Gen-Z’s lives–such as gun control, climate change/environmental conservation, and mental health, to name a few. But social justice is no longer exclusive to non-profits or NGOs either. The collective generational desire to fix the world’s problems can be seen in the businesses Gen-Z has created as well. For Gen-Z’s, it’s no longer enough to do, it must be done right.

The Internet has given Gen-Z’s one more important characteristic: speed. Gen-Z is the most connected generation ever, with well over a majority of teens and young adults actively utilizing social media. Because of this, combined with Gen-Z’s digital know-how, spreading information is faster and vaster than ever before, resulting in a more agile, unified generation, one that goes beyond borders. In fact, within the past few months, Gen-Z has proven themselves to be a generation that “gets sh*t done,” mobilizing as a collective and becoming major players in the Black Lives Matter movement and pandemic relief, spreading information through social media platforms such as Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.

Although our generation’s nonsensical side and entrepreneurial side seem like polar opposites, they are really two sides of the same coin. Gone are the classic tropes of being one thing or another, in 2020, why not be them all? It’s part of the unique charm of being a Gen-Z, and it’s why we’re so proud to call ourselves one.

So if you know a Gen-Z, here’s a cool test for them. Ask them: What is a floppy disk?

They will probably answer with: "A floppy disk, also known as a floppy, diskette, or simply disk, is a type of disk storage composed of a disk of thin and flexible magnetic storage medium, sealed in a rectangular plastic enclosure lined with fabric that removes dust particles. Floppy disks are read and written by a floppy disk drive (FDD)" (Wikipedia).

Chances are, unless you invented the floppy disk, in about 10 seconds they’ll know more about them than you do. So no, we didn't grow up with that technology. But we grew up with technology, and we sure know how to use it.