At a graduation ceremony I recently attended, I overheard one proud father telling another, ‘These Millenials are a different breed altogether.’ And while I agree with this statement, I was taken aback. The graduates whose success, all of us proud parents were celebrating, the class of 2018 who would soon go off to distant lands to pursue their under-graduate studies, weren’t the Millenials. They were a breed unto themselves: Generation Z.
For the uninitiated, Generation Z is the demographic cohort born after 1995. Interestingly, one of the largest populations of Generation Z’ers happens to be located in India. Generation Z is often described – by those who don’t have a good understandingof the true nature of this generation – as being narcissistic, having a disregard for tradition, and being obsessed with technology. This misunderstanding of Generation Z prompts an introduction to India’s next generation. And given that this generation can, or will soon, vote and enter the workforce; let’s try and understand this generation better.
Being a generation that was practically raised by technology, Gen Z’ers don’t just have a knack for technology; they have an innate understanding of it. They are able to navigate the world of smart phones and gadgets with utmost ease, as most of us Gen X folks can (enviously at times) attest to!This generation is more into apps like Snapchat and Instagram, which is not surprising given that Gen Z’s advent has coincided with the increasing popularity of these apps. Although they have never known a world where the Internet, and social media, does not exist, they are particular about privacy. This may explain their preference of Snapchat over Facebook.
In this gen-speak, filters, streaks and stories assume a whole new meaning- a different terminology for their technology. Also given their short attention spans, their preferred mode of communication is veering away from text and towards images. For this generation, the phrase “a picture says a thousand words” certainly rings true.
Living in a world of continuous updates, Gen Z’ers may have lower attention spans, but are adept at doing multiple things at a time. So surfing multiple sites on the laptop while researching the impact of world wars, coordinating the logistics of their pizza dinner on their Basketball WhatsApp group chat and scrolling through Instagram posts take place seamlessly. Needless to add, much of this is done while streaming music on their phones!
India’s Gen Z continues to uphold the values of integrity, family and hard work. That said religion is something that many Gen Z’ers don’t seem to believe in, as much as earlier generations did, and do. Every generation tends to believe that they are ‘God’s greatest gift’, but the first part of that phrase may hold less meaning for Gen Z. Broadly speaking, they seem more inclined towards the spiritual and practical than the ideals of religion and faith.
Gen Z was born in a period of conflict and turmoil. Whether it’s 9/11, the Iraq War, tensions in the Middle East, political and economic instability, or terrorism, Gen Z probably doesn’t know what a world at peace looks like. And this generation has been raised during a period of much change. They have had a front-row seat to social movements such as BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, Time’s Up, the LGBT movement and the Women’s March, And by virtue of their active social media presence, they have been witness to farmer rebellions, mass protests, and the impact of corruption. The manner and extent to which they have been able to see and be a part of political, social and economic upheavals, have increased their global awareness quotient and consequently ignited in some of them the desire to make a difference.
As a Gen Z’er tells me, ‘We are more inspired by figures such as Malala, Ellen DeGeneres, and J.K. Rowling than stars such as Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, and Miley Cyrus.’ Being more cognizant of global issues, as mentioned above, Gen Z’ers are characterized by their social-consciousness and progressive views. For them, change can come in small ways or big; it could be by initiating an online petition, starting an entrepreneurial venture or teaching the less privileged.
This is illustrated in a survey conducted by the UK-based Varkey Foundation among people from Gen Z across 20 countries, including India. For instance, when questioned on gender equality in India, 92% of Gen Z’ers said that men and women have the right to be treated equally. Further, 79% said that they believed transgender people should have the same rights as non-transgender people.
These progressive views and cognizance of the world around them makes Gen Z’ers more likely to make a meaningful contribution to society.Indeed, as per the findings of the Varkey foundation survey, 67 per cent of young people surveyed globally think that making a wider contribution to society beyond themselves and their family is important.In India, this figure is at 83 per cent.
The Future is Uncertain
But the pace at which technology and innovations are changing the world has possibly sensitized Gen Z’ers to a worrying implication: specialized and fewer jobs in the future.
Gen Z has witnessed how crises, like the global financial crisis of 2007-8, impacts jobs and lives. And given the increasing predominance of technology, Gen Z is aware of how this would change the nature of jobs that will be in demand in the near future. In the words of a person from this generation, ‘We understand that the world is prone to a financial crash at any given moment.’ The above factors have possibly instilled in them a sense of financial insecurity. Gen Z’ers are thought to be more realistic than Millennials when it comes to their dreams, prioritizing financial security (which in some cases may mean being more cost-conscious and frugal) and understanding that they live in a fluid, fast-changing world.
According to the Varkey foundation report, when it comes to what makes India’s Gen Z anxious, the pressure of earning money in an uncertain and changing environment, tops the list. However, luckily for Gen Z in India, developing skill sets matters more than earning money. Thus, despite being worried about change, Gen Z’ers seems focused on honing skills that can lead to future success.
The future may be uncertain but it is theirs’- Generation Z is poised to rock our world.