Gen Z: Stuck in the Middle

By Meshall Awan, from Retrograde print 1.3

The newest generation of youth, Generation Z, has struggled from the outset to establish our individuality and authority in an increasingly volatile world. At least in part, this struggle stems from the misconception that Generation Z is an extension of Generation Y (millennials). While they may share some characteristics, the two generations are far from the same. Generation Z includes individuals born from the end of the nineties, extending to the mid-2000s. I was born in 1999, right on the border between a 90’s baby and a 2000’s baby. So I'm too young to have watched every episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I'm also too old to be enamored with Jake Paul.

Often  Generation Z is criticized because most of us have grown up with technology constantly around us. With the swipe of our fingers, we are able to watch multiple YouTube videos or talk to people halfway across the world. Unfortunately, due to this early exposure, older generations claim that technology is ruining us. But this is not the case; instead, we have more information easily accessible to us than any generation before us, and we use this information well. The internet constantly enables today’s youth to form opinions on pressing political and social issues while helping us determine which issues matter most to us. As a result, Gen Z is the most open-minded and well informed generation to date.

The internet has also dissolved the idealistic naïveté that has defined the children of every previous generation. Unlike the millennials before us, we were never ensured that we would get into good colleges or have good jobs. We grew up watching older generations struggle and being told that life was difficult, and that the future would be filled with challenges that we won’t always be able to conquer.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard children being told to be seen but not heard on issues of gender equality, racial justice, and politics solely because most of us are too young to vote.. Nevertheless, members of older generations complain that teenagers worry too much about themselves and don’t think about the world around us. It’s sad to say, but Generation Z probably cares about the world more than the world cares about Generation Z. Children wouldn’t have to hide under their desks for hours, wondering whether they’ll make it home to see their families if the world worried about the youth of today as much as they claim to. If Gen Z was as self-centred as older generations make them out to be, Gen Z would not be tearing down the patriarchy  and advocating for intersectionality as passionately as we are now. Despite this, we never seem to win, and are told we are acting ‘politically correct’ (as if it’s an insult) or that we are overly sensitive. Being born into a rapidly changing society is perhaps one of the most daunting challenges a teenager can encounter, and little credit is given to the teenagers who quickly learn to adapt to those changes.

While Generation Z work towards distinguishing ourselves from Millennials, we are still weighed down by comparisons to our older counterparts. Make no mistake, many Millennials have achieved amazing things and have paved the way for much of the social change that Gen Z kids are enacting. But it is difficult to make progress when our accomplishments are overlooked or used to further the claim that Millennials are better than we.

So, no: we are not “Millennials on Steroids”, or “The Next Millennials”. We are the world’s future leaders, innovators, creators, and luminaries. We are a generation that is a part of something much bigger than ourselves. And, if there’s anything I’ve learnt from not being taken seriously, it’s to be vocal about what I believe in. So to any fellow member of Gen Z reading this, keep your head up. You may be told your voice doesn’t matter, but keep in mind that you are the future. There will always be naysayers, but it’s your job to prove them wrong.