Generation Z, or Gen Z for short, is the demographic cohort after the Millennials. Demographers and researchers typically use the mid- to late-1990s as starting birth years. We are told we are lazy, impatient, and stuck in the clouds, dreaming and not doing, but are we really this way?
A millennial once told me that generation Z gives him no hope for the future of the world. I know, being of generation Z, I was shocked and frankly angry when I heard this. I laughed a bit since he isn't that much older than I am, so I asked why he felt this way? His response was not shocking, “your generation is lazy, entitled, impatient, and delusional about the world around you”. I have heard this many times before, from the dinner table at family reunions with judgy extended family to ‘knowledgeable’ experts on the news. But who are we as a generation really?
How we define generation Z has been predetermined by the generations of the past, who claim that they did things the ‘correct’ way. Although, every generation looks down upon the other, it seems as if the negative connotation surrounding my generation has been amplified. Are we really as lazy, impatient, and delusional as others assume or have we, perhaps, been misinterpreted?
This brings me to the title of this article, generation zealous. Why did I choose this title? Well, first of all, I needed a word that started with a Z and generation Zoo didn't make any sense. So zealous it was, but why?
"Zealous is defined as having extreme passion and drive towards supporting a belief or goal."
How can a generation who are commonly characterized as being lazy possibly be passionate and driven? I believe this has to do with a misunderstanding of generation Z’s work ethic. The traditional 9-5 job which stopped once you got home is an idea of the past, we are not working in the way our mothers and fathers did. Today the office has spread from our desk to our living room couch, work is always accessible from our laptops to our phones. Not being in the office from 9-5 does not mean that the work does not get done.
I read somewhere that my generation has the most teenaged millionaires ever (not surprising since you can become famous based off anything). Of course, I understand that we are not all 16-year-old influencers, yet the drive and work ethic exhibited by these teens is present among all of us. What makes our generation unique is that work ethic cannot be given one sole definition, since we are all working towards different definitions of success. The idea of hustle culture has been cultivated by our generation, we no longer live with the old fashioned job market. To make things more complicated, success is no longer universally defined as having a house, a car, and a family (all of which are visible achievements). Or rather these visible achievements are not what we prioritize anymore.
Today, while one person may dream of owning a Tesla and gaining another thousand Instagram followers, the other dreams of traveling the world and making an impactful change. Our work ethic is not evident in shared goals but in a similar drive. We are a generation zealously chasing our individual definition of success.
Yet if this is true, why are we continuously associated with the idea of laziness? One answer could be rapid digitization. Much change which our generation wants to make is generated online. This lack of visibility in the real world may result in this perception of laziness. Given that the traditional definition of success is through visible actions, it is understandable why others can't see the impact we are making.
Maybe this is why everyone thinks we are also impatient. I mean we are able to get almost everything with the click of a button. Or are we once again misinterpreted by those around us? This impatience may be a misunderstood eagerness for change. Of course, we understand that things are not going to change immediately, but this won't stop us from talking about it in a demanding way and eventually going out to make that change.
"We are stuck in the clouds, dreaming and not doing"
The anger and discussions that we have online are often translated into offline action. We can see this online activism becoming a reality in the ‘real world’ through movements such as the fight against climate change. A debate created online has spread around the world empowering young people to take to not only their phones, but also the streets to demand action.
I am constantly told that my generation is lazy and impatient, that we are stuck in the clouds, dreaming but not doing. It can be hard for people who didn’t grow up with the internet to grasp. Yet for us, everything happens online, from social activism to dating. Maybe we are impatient but that is not necessarily bad, we want to see change happen and will talk about it, protest about it, and complain until it does.
It's hard for a generation to define itself so early on, we are still developing. When posed with the question ‘who are we as a generation?’, one could answer that we are undefinable and have recharacterized what identity, success and work ethic means. Maybe we should consider a rebrand. Generation Zealous means our passion and drive can finally be recognized and we can have the power to determine who we are ourselves (not by those boomers)!
By: Fenna Milbauer