by Aliaksandra “Sasha” Kiniova, December 3, 2021
Special thanks to Brian Bulag to contributing to some parts of this paper.
As a fellow Gen-Z person, I feel as if it is very appropriate for me to judge this generation of souls. Whenever I look at criticisms or judgements of Gen-Z people, it often comes from older generations and to be frank, they may not understand the different and unique experiences that this upcoming generation is facing. There are many economic issues such as college rates, loan management and the increasing wealth gap in the United States. I will be focusing on some of the more social issues affecting the U.S. Gen-Z population, however it is likely that my observations can be generalized to Gen-Z populations in different regions of the world.
One of the biggest changes that Gen-Z experienced that no other generation in history had experienced was the exponential increase of social technology such as social media, applications and the Internet. In many ways it has helped progress our society in professional ways, but I cannot say the same for social reasons. One of the difficulties of this adaptation is that no one has experienced this type of change. So all the generations were trying to learn. Unfortunately for Gen-Z, is that all this technology coincided with a very developmentally challenging and complicated time, puberty and adolescence.
During this time, it is hard for a person to find their own identity and they are learning how to react to situations that are more complicated than most typical childhoods. Many professionals in the psychology field back this claim up by saying that “adolescence is a transition period characterized by major changes in terms of biological, cognitive and social development” (Assuncao et. al, 2017) Also during this time there is a big shift in not only how friendships and relationships are formed but also how they are maintained. In Gen-Z, the biggest issue socially seems to be making and retaining friendships and relationships with people. There are many reasons why, however I believe the rise of individualism, mobility, consumerism and vulnerability may contribute to this problem.
Individualism is a philosophy or belief that the person themselves and their wants and needs are above all else in life. This definition seems very harsh but milder versions of individualism is just thinking about oneself more often than about others. Due to the rise in business and career growth, people have started becoming too focused on themselves. Friendships and relationships are becoming deemed as unnecessary, when in reality a person’s support group is one of the most important things in the world.
With many Gen-Z feeling like they cannot reach out to make new friends or cannot get a reply from a person they met, this can be because of individualism. People often do not go out to meet with friends or check up on them because they say ‘they do not have the time’. The reality is that if someone really cares or wants to talk or be with someone, you or that person will find or make time for them however this takes effort on our part. But it also can be our fault. When was the last time that we texted an acquaintance or old friend to genuinely talk and not just talk about superficial things? I find that I struggle to make friends, however I have been trying more and more to reach out first since I do not want to become one of those people who does not have time for friendships and possibly pass up on many interesting people that could be amazing friends.
One of the less visible reasons that Gen-Z could have trouble making meaningful relationships is because this new generation is always up and moving. People always move, however with the increase of transportation technology in Gen-Z, many people are moving. This will naturally cause any relationship to become less close. Even though we have social media and other ways of communicating, this cannot replace proximal relationships oftentimes and seeing people in person is integral to being human. Gen-Z also had to go through the Covid-19 pandemic through their adolescence which does not help the fact that we often need to see people to continue our friendships with them.
There also has been a shift in how Gen-Z treats friends in general and this adds to my idea of how consumerism is affecting relationships. With the rise of hookup culture in the Gen-Z era, we see that people often treat each other as people who can be ‘replaced’ or that relationships can easily be ‘thrown away’ if that person starts becoming a burden. Oftentimes with consumerism or materialism, we associate ourselves with materials. However this can easily be translated to people. When we want to drink some water, is it easier to buy a plastic bottle of water or remember to fill our water at home and bring it? Of course the plastic bottle of water. After we buy the plastic bottle is it easier to throw it away or to keep it, wash it and reuse it for a different time? It is easier to throw it away! And this scenario I showed can easily be applied to how our generation is starting to treat people.
Lastly, it has become harder for us to be vulnerable with people, which may also explain why Gen-Z is struggling mentally as a whole. Let us first reflect on our own friendships and relationships with people. How often do we genuinely talk about how we feel and how often do we actually listen to how a person feels and do not dismiss the fact that they said something that is worse than ‘good’. With the rise of social media and technology, I think that it is harder for us to look eye to eye with someone. We are always more comfortable to do this anonymously. However when we are friends with people, we cannot just talk about superficial things and only check up when something life-changing is happening to someone. We need to learn and understand that opening up is important because not opening up about how we feel can lead to many mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The rise of these mental health issues are often disregarded by older generations as ‘our generation being too sensitive’. However I believe a major contributing factor is that our friendships as a whole are becoming less meaningful. We open up less to others and are not very receptive to others.
These are just some reasons and some issues of how I think Gen-Z is one of the most confusing and unique generations that is shifting society in a different direction, in good and bad ways. In the psychology field, many professionals have proposed that there is “a model of “problematic Internet use”, identifying several specific cognitive and behavioral constructs associated with negative outcomes of the Internet use such as preference for online social interaction, mood alteration, cognitive preoccupation or compulsive behavior”(Assuncao et. al, 2017). I hope to write a longer version of my analysis and it will encompass all my reasons and with a more detailed look at Generation Z by a person who is Gen-Z and therefore understands the Gen-Z/internet culture better.
Assuncao, R., Costa, P., Tagliabue, S., & Mena Matos, P. (2017). Problematic Facebook use in adolescents: Associations with parental attachment and alienation to peers. J Child Fam Stud, 26(11), 2990–2998. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1007/s10826-017-0817-2