Millennials, with their optimism and avocado on toast, have been falling off the radar - cue Generation Z. While Gen Z might sound like some kind of apocalyptic Spielberg film, they’re actually just the not-so-scary youth of today, aka anyone that was born from 1995 onwards. My sister was born in 1999, which makes her a member of Gen Z but I am made of a different yoke (millennial through and through). After noticing the key differences that six years can make, I’ve put together this step-by-step guide to what exactly has changed in mindsets over the course of a generation.
It’s cool to be political
They’ve come to adulthood in an age of Trump and Brexit. ‘It’s cool to be political’, my sister explained after seeing the look of astonishment on my face when I realised the heated debate between a group of 17-year-old girls revolved around Corbyn, not their crush. This political coolness also translates into a passion for environmental change, vegetarianism and veganism – which have become not just diets but aesthetics, move over emos and townies.
Generation Z have shorter attention spans
Us millennials may also be completely obsessed with the world inside our phones but Generation Z has grown up with mobiles in their hands, exposed to apps like Snapchat and Vine since young teens. Unlike in the days of dial-up, the world is a series of continuous updates, which means that Gen Z-ers don’t have time to sit and watch an entire feature length film without checking their phone a hundred times. Yep, that’s why they love YouTube so much – short, snappy videos that entertain or advise in minutes.
They’re brilliant multi-taskers
And while it’s annoying in a cinema, one incredible advantage of their stimulation craving is their ability to multi-task. My sister and her friends will have iPads, computers and mobile phones on the go all at once and this transfers into their non-digital life too. They can take study notes, FaceTime a friend and shift between work and their social lives instantaneously. Whether this means dropping performance standards by focusing less is yet to be seen, but if they can multi-multi-multi-task efficiently it could mean exciting things for society.
They want to work for themselves
According to a 2014 study, 72% of high school students said they wanted to start a business someday. Four years on and these are the Gen Z-ers that are currently leaving school. While millennials pursue their entrepreneurial dreams as a side hustle (any aspiring twenty-something writers will relate to this), Generation Z has started that business as a teenager thanks to a plethora of examples of self-starters on social media. Apparently, this will be a huge driver of business innovation in future years. Some experts trace this drive for entrepreneurship back to the 2008 recession, which is when the generation started to come of age.
They value their privacy
This is one thing millennials could really do with picking up on. Despite the fact that most of them have a massive digital footprint, my sister’s generation favour Snapchat over Facebook messenger. ‘You know when someone has seen a message and if someone has screenshot it - and your message disappears,’ she told me.
Contrastingly, I remember saving logs of MSN conversations to my computer. Gen Z aren’t as obsessed with Instagram as we are, and tend to have a locked account which they use to look at friend’s photos, as opposed to having an open account in the hope that one day we’ll wake up to 50k followers. While millenials are questioning their use of the Facebook platform after the recent scandal, Gen Z is shrugging it off – they don’t use it that much anyway.
They’re more likely to absorb fake news
That being said, the youth of today might be a lot more susceptible to believing and spreading what they read online. According to Marketing Tech, the generation spends 10 hours engaging with online content a day – 10! Rather than clicking links and reading news, people are more and more likely to read the comments instead. ‘People believe something based on the amount of shares, likes and comments rather than the legitimacy of the news source,’ says my wise lil’ sis. Of course, adults do this too but opinion-based news coming from YouTubers and young people that Gen Z trusts are a lot more influential than what they see on the telly.
And a little pessimistic about the future. An in-depth investigation by The Guardian interviewed 2000 Gen Z-ers and found that this generation is more distrustful and anxious than their predecessors. They’re distrustful of the government – only one in ten expects the government to do the right thing and they’re hugely anxious, particularly when it comes to fears about terrorism.
All in all, they’re a bit like a more anxious, private version of us. But their genuine care about the environment and the way our planet is headed, makes me optimistic (classic millennial I know) that they’ll bring us a bright future.