The Detachment of Gen-Z from other generations
Generation Z is the youngest, most ethnically diverse, and the largest generation in American history. Because of the rapid development of technology in the 21st century, Gen Z demonstrates an excellent command of technology unlike any other, giving them the tools for social activism on a world-wide stage. By taking advantage of social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, our generation has spear-headed protests, organized marches, and rallies--often filming themselves as they stand up to violent police and military forces. Gen Z is already outpacing millennials in terms of political activism--they’re more likely to have extreme left-wing beliefs and pursue grassroots organizing rather than work within corrupt structures of government. It’s plausible that, as Gen Z is integrated into the workforce and has the opportunity to induce more political change, they will divert from millenials, who will grow to be more conservative over time, thus paralleling the divide between millenials and baby boomers.
Gen Z also tends to be more flexible about higher-education. While more students are attending college than ever before in history, a small minority are pursuing a new career path--a social media influencer. This includes everything from Tik Tok stars to Instagram models to Youtubers--the most popular earning millions just by posting content and getting views. Some teenagers are making a living simply by posting short videos of themselves dancing to popular music on Tik Tok, a Chinese video-sharing social network. While this type of activity is sometimes looked down upon by other generations who believe so-called “Tik-Tokers” do not deserve fame just for dancing on video, there is no doubt that some Tik Tokers are massively successful.
But there’s a downside--Generation Z is also more prone to stress and mental illness than any other generation. According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America report, 91% of generation Z have said that they experience symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress regularly. Boomers and Gen-Xers were comparably less stressed in their childhoods because school work was not nearly as demanding as it is today and parents and children were generally less afraid of violent crime. Today, parents are much more likely to be protective over their children, forbidding them to spend time with their friends without adult supervision, which has often contributed to feelings of loneliness and anxiety. In addition, 74% of parents called school shootings a massive source of stress, closely matched by 72 percent of Gen Z students. Since the year 2000, there have been school shootings at the rate of about one a month, resulting in the deaths of about 250 students and teachers.
The rise of social media has also caused significant mental health problems for Gen Z. Social media like Tik Tok and Instagram have created unrealistic beauty standards since influencers are likely to advertise products meant to “fix” one’s features, and use editing apps to get rid of “undesirable” (but natural) features about their bodies. This has fostered insecurity and anxiety in Gen Z, especially in young women.
But, perhaps, a decline in mental health is the tradeoff for living in a more connected and technologically savvy world than ever. The rise in activism and relative liberalism of Gen Z will, hopefully, make the world a safer and more just place in the future. But, at what cost?