Generation Z: It’s Different Now.

%22Gen+Z%22+by+EpicTop10.com+is+licensed+under+CC+BY+2.0

“Gen Z” by EpicTop10.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sabrina Lane

TikTok activism, a major reason the Trump campaign’s 1 million registrants to its Tulsa rally this past weekend translated into merely 6,200 attendees, was the latest in a string of recent powerhouse social media moves by Generation Z. Most of us can’t yet vote, but we initiated petitions to arrest murdering cops, called out alleged racists and, led by the K-pop stans, got #WhiteLivesMatter to trend (ironically) on Twitter.

 

As a member of Gen Z, I will explain these mysterious actions to adults. People often think we are too angry. But why wouldn’t we be? (No, it’s not always “the phones!”) Suicide has spiked 56% in ten years, one out of three teens have struggled with a mental illness and teen stress levels match those of patients in mental asylums 70 years ago. The cost of living has risen dramatically, and Gen Z has watched as middle-class Americans struggle to pay the bills, millennials suffer with college-debts, and their parents lose their jobs possibly twice after the Great Recession and the current pandemic. We’ve seen how big companies like Amazon pay their workers less than a living wage while their billionaire CEOs pile up money like feudal lords.  We’ve experienced the ‘non-profit’ CollegeBoard exploit children’s anxieties about admissions, making tests hundreds of dollars each so they can have a shot. Many say Generation Z grew up too fast, but we had to. 

The biggest reason for our cynicism: Generation Z grew up in a declining America. In kindergarten, my teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we were older. I decided on an astronaut, while classmates picked teacher, doctor, writer. My teacher said that we could be whatever we wanted to be as long as we worked hard. But over the past decade, Gen Z has seen with our own eyes that it isn’t true. Every person loses their innocence from their childhood, but my generation is skeptical, overwhelmed, and depressed, and not in the typical teenage way. By age twelve, I was crying at the TV on election night because I feared that my country would not be safe anymore. At 13, I said goodbye to my foreign-born babysitter, my second mom, as she moved three thousand miles away because she feared for her life in the United States. At 14, I saw my class panic when someone dropped a water bottle and we assumed it was a gunshot. At 15, as the planet boiled, we skipped schools and took to the streets. At 16, my friends cried as they were pepper sprayed while protesting George Floyd’s death. These last four years contradict any beliefs about “anything is possible!” and “work hard and you’ll get there” that we grew up hearing. 

 

Finally, we are unsure of our future. Our planet is heating up, ecosystems are being wiped off the planet, and land is going underwater because of our addiction to fossil fuels. My generation can’t plan for the future because we don’t know what’s going to happen. I want to live in New York City when I’m older but I can’t plan on it since some researchers think it’ll be underwater in 50 years. We joke about it and meme it, but we are terrified and we can’t do anything about it. Our elders in politics don’t make rational long-term decisions. It’s as if the people running our country don’t care about us. The companies selling their products care about our buying power but not our futures. The older generations aren’t voting with us in mind. Global warming, student debt, and school shootings won’t affect them, and it’ll just hurt us. We have to deal with the consequences of our older generation’s (in)actions.

 

 So right now, the safest thing to do is act. My generation thinks that the people in charge are selfish. We feel we have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders because no one else will. The fact that the Gen Z-led protests have created more change than the president is pathetic. Greta Thunberg has done more for us than any adult. We see older generations complaining, and see also how ineffective it is. The meme “okay Boomer” in a way is just kind of accepting the fact that no one is really looking out for us. Since we’re the first generation composed entirely of digital natives, we use social media to our advantage to create the change that hasn’t been made for us. And we have to! We might not be able to live to our grandparents’ age if we don’t.

 

Okay, I’m acting like a millennial! I’ve complained without proposing a way to fix this. Since we can’t do this alone, how can you help? Here are three suggestions:

 

  • Understand why we are angry. We deserve to be. We have grown up in a system that undermines our future.
  • Politicians come up with platforms that cater to every specific interest group  — how about a platform to benefit those not old enough to vote. Long-term visions for climate change, racial justice,  and economic equity would be a good start. 
  • FIGHT FOR US!! Listen. Amplify your voices and use your adult powers such as voting. Get involved. Donate. Stand up for those who will see the 22nd Century. 

 

We might not be there if you don’t.