Recently I have read a flurry of articles all sharing their concerns about Gen Z, from various perspectives such as from the older generation, therapists, or parents. Yesterday a friend tweeted he was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and couldn’t believe how they were all at the gym or jogging in the streets – rather than getting wasted in the half-empty bars, like he did before. ‘How things have changed since my day’ was the sub text. A familiar phrase the older (and wiser) one gets.
It seems we are all thinking ‘zoomers’ are not as much fun as we thought we were at their age. We’re worried they are all too sensible, healthy, moral and ethical. It seems there is an inter-generational dichotomy at play. Us languishing in the middle age are apparently confused by Zs who are absolutely and rightly focused upon striving for the eradication of anachronistic social boundaries, whilst being socially, healthily, and environmentally considerate. We fought for such freedoms and attitudes on their behalf, and we should be delighted they have grasped the baton in the relay race of conscious progress. Even though I admit to being annoyed when they turn around and claim policies, politics and choices as their own. I mean, I didn’t need to be made aware of the misogyny of James Bond, or the serious risks of food allergies recently, did I?
Collectively, society isn’t saying Gen Z is boring, but there is a cautionary tale here that aims to prevent them falling asleep on the job. All this seriousness seems too much, too soon. We are worried our young adults are creating a self-limiting lived experience, viewed through anxiety-provoking apocalyptic lens. Surely there is a balance to be achieved here? This is a cohort that has been bombarded with pressures and 24-hour news like never before. They have been hot-housed in education, striving for ever-narrowing educational attainment measures, and have been equipped to broadcast the best and worst of their lives across social media, in a minute-by-minute quest for comparison and competition.
Sensible advice is that we should all live and learn in education and beyond in equal measure, make mistakes, test boundaries, and lose control occasionally. We need to discover for ourselves how that feels, interact widely with diverse people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures, and broaden our horizons. Learning how to be with the best and the worst of them so we develop relationships, critical capacity, tolerance and negotiation skills. There does need to be more joy, happiness, less anxiety, and freely chosen living. That goes for all of us.