Gen Z in Focus

Mehk Sethi, Assistant Editor

From the beginning of time, people have tried to pigeonhole each generation into labels. Baby boomers are known for hippies or disco. Generation X (born from 1965-1979) are characterized by grunge. Generation Y (millennials, born from 1980-1995) individuals are thought of as entitled. What about Generation Z (born from 1996-2010). What about us? What few words can be used to describe our whole generation?

So far, it has been very hard to compartmentalize our generation because overall, we reject social labels and strive to be individuals. This can be seen from our sense of style and our refusal to accept social constructs. According to the New York Times, in 1999, 65% of kids age 12-17 said they “cared a lot about whether their clothes were in style” compared to the 47% in 2015. Our generation applauds those who express their individuality rather than conform to peer-accepted fashion. Additionally, past generations were very attached to gender binaries and linear definitions of sexuality. In comparison, our generation embraces being who you want to be regardless of stereotypes, with young stars like Jaden Smith attending prom in a skirt.

Our generation, generation Z, also seems to differ a lot from past generations, specifically generation Y, in that we seem to be more aware of our surroundings. To begin with, millennials grew up in the boom and relative peace of the 1990s. However, we grew up more conscious of the world around us after the attacks of 9/11 and the Great Recession. For this reason, generation Z tends to be more mindful of the future than the millennials.

One of the biggest differences between generation Z and Y is that we grew up with technology. While millennials did live their teenage years with MySpace and iPods, we were raised in the era of smartphones and have not completely experienced a world without social media. We have had time to learn from the debacles of millennials sharing too much information on Facebook and have learned to use more anonymous and temporary social media outlets like Snapchat. We are exposed to people who make their livings by sitting behind a computer and managing their social media, and we dream bigger than working at McDonalds or Sears, like teenagers in the past did; we want to start our own businesses.

Most importantly, the population has become increasingly diverse from the time millennials were coming of age, and social issues have shifted a lot. Same-sex marriage is now a Constitutional right, and an African-American president is a fact of life rather than an unlikely historical breakthrough.

With all these changes from generation Y to Z, it is difficult to imagine the next generation, generation Alpha. This is the generation of kids born from 2011 to 2025, many of whom are in pre-school or yet to be born. When these “Alphas” come of age what do you think their world will be like? Will they have “smart cars” that will drive them to get frozen yogurt or car pool a bunch of them to their next soccer game? Will these Alphas still be cramming for the likes of the SAT or ACT, or will they be building online portfolios of their achievements that rank them in real time from the comfort of their bedrooms?  And should I dare ask you to think about the Betas? Who knows, maybe by then we may be somewhere on Mars designing the next best “in-vitro” nursery rhymes.