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Gen Z: Internet Addicts or Digital Revolutionaries?

Gen Z are truly an intriguing set of individuals – they have little to no memory of the world before modern technology, they grew up alongside the creation of social media, and for many the internet served as a surrogate parent, adding a new dimension to their worldly education. The raising of Gen Z feels like a mad test run – the world they are living in is one that nobody could have predicted, and nobody seems quite sure where it’s all going.

No other generation was born with the gift (or curse) of this platform on which we can share our opinions and desires in our pockets. The internet as it is today is akin to the Wild West, it has gone beyond the status of a tool to a living breathing entity; one that feels like it shouldn’t even exist. Biologically speaking, humans are meant to live within small tribes, and yet now we are able to know what everybody thinks about anything and what everybody is up to at any moment; we have been inundated with information since our birth.

The BLM Movement, the MeToo Movement – name a movement, and you may find its genesis in the internet culture born from Gen Z – it’s hard to detach them from each other, as they are intertwined in our unique moment. While the messages espoused by these movements aren’t necessarily unique, as sadly the issues they decry are arguably institutionalised, what makes them different is how they are responded to specifically by our tribe. 

We use social media and hashtags, put emphasis on the shareability of the message, we have a wealth of information on the subjects at our fingertips, and we use colloquial understandable language to put our own spin and unique emphasis on these hot button issues. Of course, this emphasis on quickfire, accessible information has led to misinformation and oversimplified reporting, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of clickbait headlines – the challenge for our generation will be to sift through this to get to the truth. 

Here at Edinburgh University, you may recall the controversy surrounding David Hume Tower: regardless of your personal opinion on the matter, I believe what this event illustrates is a keen sense of awareness from Gen Z regarding the past that perhaps hasn’t been evident in its forebears. Gen Z aren’t afraid to call out their elders, take them to task on their dodgy history, and educate them on where the youthful consensus lies.

Whilst Millennials had the Great Recession and the Greatest Generation had World War 2, Gen Z have got the Covid-19 Pandemic, which is in a sense quite topical to Gen Z’s specific characterization. For many of this generation, not going outside to crowded public spaces and staying inside to text your friends was the norm anyway – even a pandemic has been unable to stifle the creativity and persistent activism of Gen Z, we were prepared for this challenge without even knowing it.

And whilst there are fringes and anomalies to the rule, it seems clear that Gen Z is one of the most ethnically diverse and subsequently the most inclusive and politically aware generations. Our views have been a long time in the making, but what sets us apart is our unique opportunity to share them with the world, and develop them together in a harmonious global community. Gen Z may be decried as too attached to their phones, or overly sensitive – but this simply misses the point – this is just the way we do our revolution.

image: StockSnap via Pixabay