Some thoughts from a Gen zer

In conducting The RELATE Project surveys, interviewers spent many hours meeting with focus groups of Gen Zers, to help give context to the study’s results. In one such focus group a Young Life College student, Jacob*, shared what’s on his heart.

What do you think makes Gen Z different from previous generations?

We’re the first generation to grow up with phones and social media. So we’ve gone through a different experience than our parents or even people who are just a little older than us. We spend a lot of time on our phones whereas older people seem to do less of that.

How would you describe older generations?

I think that it’s a little unfair to describe a whole generation with one generalization. My grandparents on one side of my family think completely different than the ones on the other side. As for Gen Z, we say our generation is more open minded to trying new things or hearing new opinions, but while we’re super aware of how others perceive us, we can still be oblivious to when we’re judging others. I feel like we put on this “cape” of being super open-minded, but in a lot of ways we can be just like how we perceive older generations — stuck in our own ways. ​

Why do you think there’s often a disconnect between Gen Z and older generations?

People don’t like change. It makes us uncomfortable. Just because we’re different, though, doesn’t mean we’re wrong. But if I grew up with the life my grandpa did, I’d probably think just like him. We’ve had completely different experiences, and while that’s not an excuse for someone to be close-minded, it’s something to be aware of.

Sometimes people make such a big deal of someone being younger. We’re just like everybody else. It’s like, yeah, we live our lives a little different, but we’re just normal people like you!

How would you describe belonging?

A place where you’re known and loved, not just one or the other. Someone could like you, but if they don’t know you, it can be superficial.

What dreams do you have?

Having a tight-knit family and community of people. If I have those then other stuff isn’t as important. I used to be success-oriented, wanting to make a lot of money and have a lot of stuff. But as I’ve gone through college, the value of that has decreased and the value of family has increased.

What worries do you have?

Being lonely or not having places where I feel like I belong. As for politics, it feels like people are just getting more and more divided, and I personally don’t see a way for people to come together and agree on things, which will probably be a problem in the future.

What would the world look like if it were run by Gen Z?

My first thought is, “It would be a mess!” Gen Z might be a little bit more willing to agree on things, but probably nothing will change, because change just comes so slowly.

How do you cope in stressful times?

In the context of school or work, it’s always, “Put your head down and do it.” But for more personal things, just being around my parents or friends always fills me back up and eases my mind. And my faith helps me put the stress in perspective, to say, “This doesn’t define my life.”

What motivates Gen Z to want to make a difference?

Many of us worry about things like the future, safety, our government, and how that’s all going to look. So we feel like we need to make a change out of necessity. Maybe the hopeful answer is based on how many of us want to be seen as kind. I think kindness and making a difference go hand in hand.

*Name has been changed.


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