Journal, Psychology, Sociology

What’s the Big Deal with GenZ

As I mentioned in “Generational Relations,” Generation Z, or centennials, are the category of individuals born between roughly 2000 and 2010. They are fundamentally different from their predecessors for a host of reasons. As they have grown into adulthood, there has been significant effort on the part of companies and organizations to understand their psychological profile. Understanding Gen Z means being able to relate to and influence them; there is a significant advantage in store for any media group or advertisement agency who can fully grasp at what makes these people tick.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 14: Young participants are seen with Black Lives Matter signs during the All Black Lives Matter Solidarity March on June 14, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)

In the past, companies and corporations have spent significant resources understanding Millennials, which has become a trope in entertainment. The Typical Millennial is portrayed as a collectivist, progressive, perhaps aloof optimist who values recreation and fun over commitment and a sustainable lifestyle. It’s no wonder then that the average millennial is in significantly more debt than their elders, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

Generation Z is significantly different from their Millennial counterparts, however. Consider the following: According to seasoned sociologist Jean Twenge,

“Members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s [Gen Z’s] oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.”

The technological aspect of this generation has far reaching consequences, as Twenge demonstrates: “Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe [Gen Z] as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

The reasons for this deterioration come in two main categories: news and entertainment.

In regard to news, consider this year, 2020. It began with escalations in Iran after an attack on the US military led to the assassination of a top brass Iranian general. Afterwards, global attention was drawn to wildfires in Australia, followed by an eight month epoch of Covid-19, wildfires in California, racial tensions and violent rioting in major cities across the US and UK, and a monumental election, the likes of which has not been seen in over three decades.

Older generations were around before the proliferation of technology. However, and I cannot stress this enough, the average Gen Z person cannot remember a time without advanced technology, and that technology means a constant presence of news. The decline of local news (local news featured many positive community topics rather than negative ones) consumption corresponds with the uptake of digitized news production. Furthermore, digitized news increasingly covers national and international news events, which majorly tends to be negative in topic. The overall result? Widespread bad news.

Access to technology means that this generation from a developmental age has been bombarded with negativity, which seems innocuous but is detrimental to worldview development. For perspective, consider the older generations’ views on current events. Most of them would consider the years of 2001-2020 to be a ‘period’ of unrest. It is only a temporary period because prior to 2001, there was less constant coverage of negative events, less awareness of bad things happening, and more connection to positive community.

The Second Congo War in 1998 was a series of conflicts that received little coverage in Western media. Although there were around five million deaths resulting from the war and its effects, the digitization of media had not yet taken over, and the result was that it went largely unknown until much later. More recently, the viral outrage over Joseph Kony’s child army received widespread coverage. Kony operated in the same geographic region, with similar geopolitical ramifications, but with the digitization of media, he received widespread public awareness.

The awareness of bad things was thus significantly lower in a pre-9/11 America. Before the PATRIOT act, before Islamic terrorism was an omnipresent threat, before International awareness had set in. Today, a terrorist attack in Paris reaches the public consciousness within minutes. By contrast, prior to the digitization of media, it could take days or more to reach actual public consciousness.

Developmentally, this generation grew up hearing bad news, hearing adults talking about bad news, and watching bad things happen. What’s more, it is a journalistic phenomenon that bad news sells. Whether it’s the juicy gossip about a celebrity scandal or reports of the terrorist attack in a far away land, journalists flock to bad news, and in the free market of journalism, the best selling articles win.

The resulting worldview is pessimistic, negative, and depressive on its own.

Added to this recipe is the entertainment factor. In my previous generational analysis article I covered the issues of celebrity obsession ad nauseum, so it’s only worth a brief restatement. Celebrity infatuation is a baseless, worthless, devaluing phenomenon that makes no sense from a rational perspective. It leads to a destroyed concept of self in the obsessed teenager, and is among the leading causes of body image dysmorphia, especially in young women.

Compounding with celebrity infatuation, social media is the forefront of public consciousness. If the person is a neuron, then social media is the prefrontal cortex; in other words, all someone needs to do in order to feel the living pulse of over one billion minds is log on to Facebook or Twitter. It is on these platforms that the truest form of direct democracy can be found: loud, unorganized, irrational, tyrannical.

Twitter especially, with the phenomenon of cancel culture, is a caustic substance. Gen Z is both guilty of and impacted by propagating cancel culture. By way of mob rule, individuals are judged and outcast by popular opinion. This evolution of cyber bullying is blatantly political, because any opinions outside the realm of political correctness are considered bigoted. Millennials on Twitter are one of the largest demographics who engage in cancel culture, followed closely by Generation Z.

Caustic social platforms and dogmatic masses enforcing a strict adherence to a political agenda is a recipe for mental dissonance. Cancel culture allows youth to attack others, ruining their chances at college and future employment by vilifying them for their different views. The attacker mentality is a regression from the old fashioned political discourse and disagreement.

One example of cancel culture is found in the Twitter crusades of Skai Jackson, an actress turned democratic vigilante who ruined the life of a minor which participated in an offensive joke. Jokes are one thing, ruining the life of a minor is something completely different. Jackson’s crusades totaled dozens of casualties, some of them more offensive than others.

Regardless of her victims’ innocence, her mob rule mentality demonstrates symptoms of a growing sentiment in Generation Z: that progressive social involvement and democratic deliberation will solve current sociopolitical crises.

The mentality of Generation Z is more entrenched in social justice than any other generation. At this point, there is no question in their minds that they live in a democracy (not true), and consequently their ideals of collective moral rule are a primary factor in discourse. Many of them would rather terminate friendships based on political affiliations or beliefs than engage in Hegelian synthesis; they would rather not debate things, but use social power to cement and weaponize their beliefs. They are politically dogmatic and are largely drawn to groupthink definitions of right and wrong.

There are outliers of course, especially ones with Christian worldview foundations, but the majority of Gen Z have fallen downwind of cultural Marxism.

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