The Gen Z, short for Generation Z, is a term used for those who were born between 1997 and 2012. Their’s is a generation of achievers who have disrupted global industries, advocated change, and are already building empires! Having grown up with rapidly evolving technology, Gen Z has efficiently leveraged its power. Gen Z changemakers like Malala Yousufzai and Greta Thunberg have created awareness and brought the attention of global leaders to pressing issues like education for girls and climate change.
Interestingly, they’re best known for the lightning speed at which news, videos, memes and jokes go viral in their online communities. They find humour in the mundane and everyday things.
Everyday words and emojis have completely different meanings in Gen Z conversations. For example, the crying emoji is often used to express laughter and the smiling emoji to express passive, but aggressive smiling nearing sarcasm!
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Gen Z is breaking boundaries, stereotypes and glass ceilings everyday with their hustle and warrior mindset.
When asked what drives them every single day, despite all the blues and challenges they face, they respond enthusiastically. A UPSC aspirant, Bhanvika Rana, 23, says, “My motivation to achieve any goal in life comes from the sheer happiness I get from the process. Even on days when the task feels impossible, I focus on carrying out the process with passion. Such a process-driven mindset pushes me to function at my best every single day.”
Shyam Sampat, 22, a finance student, provides an interesting perspective, “The unknown and the uncertainty of the future is something that drives me everyday. Also, I am constantly discovering myself, which is exciting and daunting at the same time. I learn something new about life and myself every day!”
21-year-old Parikshit Tiwari, an animation student, feels, “The idea of reaching the limits of my potential, pushing myself to be the best version of myself, is what drives me. As a generation, we (Gen Z) have the freedom to explore and experiment, to try out new avenues, fail and try again till we succeed. I want to take advantage of this privilege and explore the depths of everything that fascinates me and reach a state of contentment.”
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A third year dental student, Khushi Sethia, 21, says that seeing the smile of a satisfied patient makes her day, and motivates her to keep working hard. “The belief I have in my work, my dreams and the fact that tomorrow always brings a better day and sunshine, is what helps me persevere on gloomy days.”
We may think that this generation, born during the dawn of a technological revolution have all they want. After all, they don’t need to fight adverse circumstances for their daily survival or care about feeding families. Yet, all they do is complain about their mental health, experiencing identity crisis, freedom and everything under the Sun. Or... it isn’t as easy as it looks for Gen Z. So, what ails this clan?
By far, one of the most challenging aspects for Gen Z is the highly competitive environment they have to navigate in terms of education and career. Take the instance of the Indian education system: lakhs of students appear for 10th and 12th board examinations every year, with immense academic pressure to score a decent grade, the only acceptable one being above 90%. But, only a few thousands manage to score above 90%, after which they enter yet another rat race to get into premier colleges. It doesn’t end here. Once they find their way into a good college, questions regarding their career future plans begin to torment. Unfortunately, Gen Z has to prove themselves and their capabilities every single day, in order to be deemed worthy of respect. A final year commerce student, Siddhi Shah, 21, says, “Competition in every aspect of our lives is becoming toxic. Healthy competition is certainly good, but when it becomes the barometer to judge someone’s worth in society, especially of peers, it is very demotivating and stressful.” This extreme competition is slowly diminishing the confidence of Gen Z, who often begin doubting, comparing and questioning themselves.
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For a generation that lives on the internet, it is natural for one to look up to others when it comes to their lifestyles, fitness journeys and more. However, it becomes worrying when one begins to compare ourselves and feel inferior. An increasingly large number of Gen Zs feel the pressure to match unrealistically high, almost fake, standards that are displayed on social media. Being an ‘influencer’ is the coolest thing.
YouTuber and digital content creator, Agasthya Shah, 19, admits that becoming an influencer has changed his life. “I have become serious about my actions and their consequent impacts. The best part about becoming an influencer, according to me, is that I’ve gained a degree of financial independence at a young age. It has empowered me to give back to those who deserve it.” He thinks that it has helped him get rid of mental barriers that were holding him back from achieving all that he wanted to. “Today... The sky’s the limit, maybe even beyond!” he says.
Having a successful career, tons of money, a perfect body and a lavish lifestyle, all of this while you’re in your 20s, is a part of this new 'influencer' culture. However, these influencers, who achieve a lot at young age also can end up feeling devoid of any goal too soon. This results in an empty feeling at an young age.
The Gen Z ends up insecure, at times surrounded by fake standards, which project a wrong picture. A 21-year-old student, Pratik Tiwari, explains what it’s like to live in constant pressure. “A few years ago, I believed I had to be successful by the age of 23-24 to be ‘accepted’ in society. However, now I've realised that these unrealistic standards we view on social media platforms, that have created superficial expectations in our minds. ”
Problems that matter
Everything is interconnected and the impact of the adverse psychological challenges faced by a Gen Z is evident on their mental health. An alarmingly large number of young adults and teenagers are suffering from anxiety, depression and also eating disorders. It is like fighting a battle every single day, only that it is in our minds and nobody is witness to it. Several Gen Zs are suffering in silence. A 20 year old engineering student, Prerna Madan, says, “It is imperative to keep our mental health in check. Even more important is to build mental resilience. Lack of mental strength has decreased our capacity to aim higher and strive towards our goals.”
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The bottom line
There are two sides to every coin, while Gen Z is a generation of go-getters and hustlers, they are also surrounded by adversaries which they must fight everyday. While they are invested in building their careers, they are also worried about issues like climate change, wars and poverty. Like every generation in history, they have a unique set of advantages, opportunities and challenges to work with.
However, the given socio-economic fabric of our globalized world has made it mentally challenging to navigate through difficulties, even with the aid of technological advancements.
To sum up, while the Gen Z is vibing, it is also sipping tea with no caps and has an equal ability to have a low key and high key life!
Some popular Gen Z lingos
No cap: You are being truthful/real
Low key: Keeping things subtle or not getting too openly excited about something
High key: Being excited about something, usually quite openly
Vibing: The millennial equivalent of chilling out
Sus: Short for suspicious, used when something looks off or suspicious, the credibility is questionable
Material girl: Popularised after the hit Madonna number, someone who values material/ expensive things
Sipping tea: A term used when someone is just listening to gossip and not participating in it