July 19, 2019

What We Don't Understand About Gen Z

“Generation Z is finally — and, it seems, suddenly — becoming a topic of popular conversation. While generations are mutually constructed fictions, not natural phenomena, Gen Z’s members are most often understood to have been born between 1997 and 2012, making them 7 to 22 years old today. In January, the Pew Research Center defined its range; in March, the New York Times ran an ambitious multimedia survey of “America’s Most Diverse Generation”; Newsweek devoted this week’s magazine to dissecting the Zs.

As I rejoice alongside my fellow millennials that a new generation is on the verge of absorbing the bumbling intergenerational analysis older media makers have been all too happy to offer (we’d prefer they offer benefits), the nascent narrative about Gen Z — while so far kinder than it’s been to us — seems to miss the extraordinary capacity and creativity of this generation.

The thesis of Newsweek’s Gen Z issue is that this generation is a snooze. “If ‘entitled’ is the most common adjective, fairly or not, applied to millennials, the catchwords for Generation Z are practical and cautious,” one Newsweek piece states. “According to the career counselors and experts who study them, Generation Zs are clear-eyed, economic pragmatists.” Plagued by anxiety, they’re playing small, shelving their dreams, looking down.

Older generations can keep their pockets glued shut, their heels dug in, and their fingers waving if they want to. I’m with the kids.”

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