It is certainly a special time to be entering the world. With so many advancements unfolding, new technologies, blossoming new industries, new problems demanding the best amongst us to rise to the challenge, we are constantly being presented with new material to weave the fabric of our reality with. Generation Z is inheriting a world of boundless opportunity.
So, naturally, they have a lot to complain about.
This brave new world we live in may be beautiful and sprawling with possibilities, but it is also degrading, and problems that once seemed trivial, are evolving into daunting megalithic forces facing humanity as a species.
This will be an important point later.
Gen Z is our youth, the newest human beings. Most never experienced Y2K, only a few were able to see the devastation of 9/11 with eyes that could focus on objects more than a few feet away. Yet they all will live lives largely shaped by events they had nothing to do with. This isn’t a new concept, we are all born unto an inherited world. What is important for those who’ve passed the threshold is to take a moment to reflect on the current state of things, and then take a look at the youth.
Here in America, Donald Trump is their definition of “The President.” Gen Z may have seen a touch of Barack but for many, Donald J. Trump is the first actual human being they’ve seen occupying the position. In public schools, progressive ideologies are cultivated in a curriculum whose focus often strays from providing the opportunity to educate and bring out the potential in youths, in favor of making on-paper results that generate more public funding. This generation is saturated with technology and information, connection with other members of society is always possible, and privacy is slowly becoming a luxury. It is a new millennium and, for children and young adults, everyday life is not what it was for their parents, or their parent’s parents.
Gen X Raised Cynics
Often described as “The Latchkey Generation,” Gen X youths experienced a spike in divorce rates that led to many children being left unattended. As Gen X grew into adulthood, they experienced the inflation and eventual popping of the dot com bubble which was preceded by Reagan era “Stagflation.” When Gen X adults began to produce offspring of their own, the millennium had nearly turned and Gen Z’s first members arrived. Gen X Parents who grew up in a world of instability taught their kids not to trust just anyone, not to lose control of their finances, and not to marry someone that they don’t think they can spend their life with.
What Makes Gen Z Different
Gen Z really are quite similar to Millennials, but there are some discrepancies.
While Millennials are in debt from pursuing that college education that everyone told them would be critical to their success, Gen Z are more open to pursuing a career that allows them to focus on their passions. There aren’t enough college age Gen Z students to really know for sure how they’ll stack up on education, but they are more likely to have alternatives to costly schooling available to them by means of the Internet. When polled, Gen Z are more likely to believe in the importance of higher education than their predecessors but with new technologies, how that education is received may not be from a traditional institution. Youtube can be an invaluable resource and, for those who understand the format, a way to side-step tradition and pursue an education that centers on what they are interested in.
They have learned the value of money and are skeptical about incurring debts with money they haven’t yet earned, straying away from risk and opting for more stable situations. This trend is a continuation from the previous generation, and likely the result of Gen X’s money-conscious parenting. A full-time job may seem like a dead end to many Millennials, but to Gen Z, it’s a way to pay the bills and a platform to spring from. Savings are more important than credit, and Debit transactions are more popular than in prior generations. Gen Z has the potential to really change the face of economics as marketers have to come up with new ways to advertise *cough* Brainwash *cough*. These consumer brands will have to take a more open approach to their public relations and be more inclusive and personal than ever before. Gen Z are even more conscious about environmental issues than the Millennials that came before and more likely to get their news online than through traditional outlets.
Simply put, Gen Z are not Hyper-Millennials, they are the natural next step.
Some Easy Stats
Currently Generation Z accounts for a bit over 30% of the world’s population. 47% of U.S. Gen Z belong to an ethnic minority. They check their phones constantly with 45% accessing the web “several times” a day, spending an average of 10 hours on their devices every day, though the average weekly usage time for the generation is only about 11 hours. The average attention span is about 7 seconds, shorter than the Millennial 12, meaning that long load times in apps and websites are less tolerable and marketing needs to be direct and concise when advertising to this generation.
While these pieces of information tell us a bit about the broad scope, the key to understanding Gen Z is a product of the internet age.
Social Media and its Grasp on 7 Seconds
There is no single factor in the development of current children and young adults that truly defines the generation as their use of social media. Currently, top dog in the social media world is Tiktok, and prior to that, Instagram had just surpassed Facebook as the most trafficked social media site. Tiktok allows users to view an infinite stream of user generated video content while providing the usual social media capabilities like messaging, commenting…etc. The User interface is minimal in nature and the usual social media tools are accessible via simple directional swipes and an overall tailored experience that is specifically geared toward the younger demographic.
Gen Z are more likely to trust the people they follow on social media than the traditional news station when it comes to interpreting “news,” more likely to respond to marketing on social media, and more likely to have their self-worth affected by it. Social media has become more than just a platform with which to connect to friends and family. Marketers estimate that Gen Z has a buying power of over $44 billion dollars and how that gets spent is increasingly effected by trends on social media. Politics, economics, world news, everything finds its way onto social media platforms and that 10 daily hours of phone time translates to a massive amount of Gen Z attention on social media. Social media influencers hold sway over large follower bases with inter-connected networks and industries forming an impressive web that is its own economy in itself.
Generation Z is made up of children and young adults, their values and opinions are largely shaped by their upbringing and what they see online. The real world and the internet world are not as separated as they were 10 years ago and now, the whole world is connected no matter how near or far, by the same nimble threads.