Where the phrase “ME” generation used to refer to baby boomers, it’s now being used to talk about Gen Y (aka Millennials, anyone born between 1980-94) and Gen Z (or iGen, born between 1995-2010). And oh boy, we’re not coming off well! From the older generations to the mass media, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gen Z is the root of all evil. Countless newspaper headlines proclaim we’re entitled, lazy and prone to getting upset over nothing, all while stockpiling avocados and ruining things such as dinner dates, napkins and divorce (yes, those are all real headlines). It’s official: we’re the worst … except we’re not. We may not be perfect (who is?) but there are so many things we’re doing right, from spreading political awareness to being more considerate towards others. Here are just a few areas where Gen Z is leading positive change and making a difference.
The planet is dying and we care about it! You can’t move in the University library without tripping over a metal water bottle (bonus points if it’s from Chilly’s) and people are starting to invest in items like reusable straws and bags in an attempt to minimise their environmental impact. These may be small steps but they matter! Vegetarian and vegan diets are on the rise and sustainability is key in fashion, with charity shops and sites like Depop experiencing a huge surge in popularity. So, we’re buying second hand, trying to be more responsible in our eating habits and reducing waste – what else? Well, we’ve been protesting too, with staggering amounts of schoolchildren marching all over the world, roused by the likes of Greta Thunberg and Ralyn Lilly Satidtanasarn. We need to halt global warming before it’s too late and we all have to play our part!
Changing the status quo
We’re more accepting than any of the generations before us, leading the charge on topics such as equality, diversity, gender and sexuality. We recognise not everyone fits into the rigid societal boxes that have been accepted for so long and we want to see change. We encourage our peers to stand up for what they believe in, whether that’s through using your vote, educating yourself or simply speaking out when you see injustice being done! In the last few years alone, Gen Z has been involved with (and have organised) marches for women’s rights, stricter gun control laws, LBGTQ+ rights and many other issues.
Ah, social media. The media loves to talk about how disconnected we are, constantly staring at our screens and hyperventilating if we haven’t been on our phone for five minutes. Social media keeps us connected in a way many people from older generations don’t quite understand; we can create communities, talk to friends, share our passions and so much more. The internet is increasingly being used for good, with figures such as Jameela Jamil, who has a significant Gen Z following, using Instagram to set up movements like ‘iWeigh’ that promote inclusivity, acceptance and body positivity. Twitter is another platform that’s been instrumental in getting the ball rolling, with movements such as #MeToo gaining viral support there. On another level, the internet allows us to educate ourselves. When we encounter things we’re not familiar with, we can look them up and gain a better understanding within seconds. As with all things, social media has a good and a bad side and our generation is largely striving to use it for good.
With disorders such as anxiety and depression on the rise, talking about mental health has never been so important. Our generation is breaking away from the traditional view of seeing such topics as taboo and leading the shift towards acceptance and discussion. We want to increase awareness of people’s struggles and let them know they’re not alone, whilst educating those around them. Where social media can be harmful to mental health, it can also do good, with thousands of accounts dedicated to spreading positive messages and encouragement. These conversations are so important and our increasing willingness to create and join in with them can only be a positive thing.
A recent study by consulting company McKinsey claims Gen Z can ultimately be defined as having a search for truth and meaning. According to them, we reject labels, place a high value on individuality and self-expression, and believe in changing the world for the better – they call us the “True Gen”. Gen Z and millennials are often portrayed as being at odds with the generations before us, when in fact we’re trying to learn from them. We want to do better than our predecessors, righting their mistakes and searching for new ways to resolve conflicts. We’re more connected than any generation before us and that makes us powerful – we can share ideas, educate others and fight for change, all at the click of a button. The “ME” generation? It seems like we’re the “WE” generation.
– Miranda Parkinson