Intro to Gen Z
Generation Z consists of everyone born between the years of 1997 and 2012. At the time of this book’s creation, the youngest of Gen Z are nine years old, and the oldest are twenty-four.
Generation Z is sometimes referred to as the loneliest generation. Out of all the generations, this is the first to be born into a world of smart technology. This has resulted in a lack of true connections, and a shared inability to connect without the use of technology.
Like millenials and every generation before them, Gen Z faces backlash from their elders. They are different, more progressive, and hard to understand.
My name is Emily, and I am the author of this post. I am nineteen years old, and fall directly into the category of Gen Z. This is my firsthand experience growing up as a part of Generation Z.
A Gen Z Childhood
One of my earliest memories is of visiting my grandparents in the middle of the country. Even they had a desktop computer, and these days they can hardly operate a smartphone. Before I had even made it into the first grade, I knew how to use that desktop and exactly what websites I wanted to be on.
It was innocent enough. I wanted to play dress-up games and watch people on Youtube. One time, though, I pulled up a video of a Stormtrooper doing a suggestive dance and got whooped pretty good.
My mom had an iPhone. Needless to say, I was one of those kids. “Mom, can I have your phone?” “Hey, do you have games on your phone?”
I could make phone calls, send text messages, and make google searches before I could read a whole Junie B. Jones book. I could argue this made me somewhat advanced, but really that was every kid in my generation. We knew a world of technology straight out of the womb, and this was our life.
My elementary school had giant carts loaded with laptops to do our schoolwork on. Personally, I found this really enjoyable and highly preferable to a pen and paper. What my school taught us about research and writing changed overnight. One year we were in the library learning about the Dewey Decimal System, and the next we were learning about online databases.
It made me laugh when a librarian showed us EBSCOHost in college. We had known about these databases since the fourth grade.
As elementary school came to a close, most of the kids had an Iphone of their very own. I had an iPod touch, but it might as well have been an iPhone seeing as it did all of the same things as I wanted to do with an iPhone. For a period of time we were even allowed to use them at school, until a fiasco with Minecraft chats and cursing made them contraband once again.
Of course, technology wasn’t the only important thing we experienced in elementary school. My Kindergarten year, we had a mock voting for the 2008 election. Most of the kids voted for Obama, because his name sounded cooler.
We had our first Black president before we even understood the nuances of government or elections. We grew up understanding those with different colors in their skin being capable of great things, even so great as being the president of our country. This, for me, is one of the greatest formative events of my childhood when I look back.
We were also some of the first to be born after 9/11. This tragedy brought the country together for some time, but we didn’t know the event well enough to feel the effects. I saw movies and documentaries, tributes and assemblies, but even today I don’t think I’ll ever know the effects as well as those who witnessed it firsthand.
With that said, it should come as no surprise that Gen Z is the generation that identifies the least with their country. We know a whole lot of disconnection and a whole lot of tragedy, but not of the kind that pulls us together with a sense of patriotism.
Gen Z Adolescence
As we grew into our bodies, the effects of technology turned into a shitshow.
As we reached adolescence, the world of influencers emerged. Everyone wanted to look a certain way, and live the perfect lives we saw on social media. By this time, most of us had an Instagram account and a Snapchat account.
I was in direct contact with every single person I knew the name of in my school at all times. We could learn all about each other’s lives and families with a light tap on the screen. There were no secrets, and this would soon come to light.
With the rise of social media came the rise of cyberbullying. Gone were the days of gossip in the hallways, now there were whole pages on Instagram with the purpose of exposing the secrets of other students.
It could be a budding relationship, a pregnancy scare, or an identity crisis– it was going online for all to see. Slurs ran down this page with the ease of melting ice cream dripping down the cone. In one night, you could go from a nice girl to an easy whore.
In high school, the one place you didn’t want to be featured was the football group chat. Boys would sweet talk you into a nude picture, and suddenly it was public domain for every football player and each of their personal connections. There was no punishment for them. If a girl brought this issue to the principal’s office, they were reprimanded for their actions, and nothing else would come of it.
I’m 110% sure these photos are still floating around today. Polaroids are dead, and pictures now last forever.
Even the effects on us were no longer private. I don’t know a single girl that wasn’t caught crying on their snapchat story, no matter how much they deny it now.
Generation Z is one of the most open and affected when it comes to mental health. Depression runs rampant, and you can’t deny the effects of constantly having eyes on you when it comes to developing anxiety.
Likes and comments were one of the easiest places to get a dose of serotonin. Filtered pictures that looked nothing like the person posting them were everywhere, and earned hundreds of likes. Some worked hard to gain thousands of followers, and could have a hundred comments under an image praising their appearance.
Having so many people in line to comment on how you look is toxic and has a huge effect on the confidence of everyone involved. Feelings of jealousy were bred as we watched certain folks receive praise, while others of us received none, or negative comments instead.
One of the better aspects of social media at this time was the development of online activism. Black Lives Matter was a huge force as high school came to end, and I believe we were all better for it. We also saw activism for tragic events in other countries, and for LGBT youth, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. Everyone was well-informed of the hardships each group faced, and might have become better people in the process.
Gen Z Early Adulthood
I am one of the older people in my generation, and have reached early adulthood. The way I grew up has had a huge impact on how this manifested.
The Coronavirus Pandemic is the first truly huge event Gen Z has witnessed. Huge chunks of our formative years were taken, and social aptitude is at an all time low. Divisive politics on the matter have also had an effect. It’s not yet clear exactly how this will affect us in the long run.
Unfortunately, I did graduate in the midst of the pandemic. This translates into having no senior prom, no in-person classes, and no graduation ceremony. I am still very sad I didn’t get to complete my last year of high school the traditional way, and wave goodbye to my childhood properly.
Cancel culture is also a part of our lives. Censorship is huge, and it’s no longer okay to say just anything, anywhere. Your online presence must be carefully monitored lest you lose your entire career and livelihood.
At some point, I totally burnt out on social media. I still tap in here and there, but not nearly so much or as constantly as before. Many of my peers have opted out altogether, denouncing it based on the effects it has had on their mental stability. I think it is a positive thing that not all of us are as obsessed as we were before.
The college and job search is easier than ever. Job boards are full and easily accessible online. You can apply to any college with a few keyboard taps, and send your transcripts and test scores just as easily. You can even complete college entirely online.
I love this part of my generation, and am taking full advantage.
However, it’s just generally harder to establish ourselves than it may have been in the past. We are entering adulthood in an infinitely more judgemental and watchful world. Everything is expensive, and we don’t have the wages to keep up. We just can’t feel successful compared to influencers who have millions of dollars in their pockets for looking hot.
This is growing up in Generation Z.
A Gen Z Woman