by Emma Havighorst
I’ve always defined myself by my age, because it seemed to be a constant support for whatever I wanted to prove.
“Yes, my room is messy Mom, it’s because I’m a teenager. Let me live.”
“Oh yeah, I have been covering shows at fashion week for six seasons now, and I’m only sixteen. Isn’t that cool?”
“Of course I can come talk to you about how teens are using social media — who would know them better than one of their own?”
As the ending of my teenager-dom looms closer and closer by the day (less than six months until I’m “in my twenties”…. eek!), I’ve discovered a new way to define myself by my age and continue to lump myself in with the people I feel most connected to — and that, my friends, is in Generation Z.
For those who don’t know, Generation Z is defined by the most recent U.S. Census as those who were born between 1997/1998 and 2016, meaning Gen Z spans the gap from twenty-year-olds to infants at this very moment. According to a study done called “Generation Nation”, Generation Z is by far the most inclusive and diverse generation thus far in American history, with almost 50% of our population being non-white and with over 50% of us supporting marriage equality across all races and genders.
A common misconception, and the one that bothers me quite possibly more than anything else, is that Generation Z is the same in ideology, interests, and behavior as Millennials. First of all, don’t even start with this Gen Z slander. The Millennials took the “Millennials Destroyed _________” trend laying down, but we won’t. So let’s set the record straight. We are not who you think we are, and we are not defined by those who came before us.
We are different from Millennials because we have grown up in an entirely different world. Our world was post-9/11 security measures and the digital, social media boom and the availability of e-commerce and social media sites. We grew up during or were born after a major, worldwide recession. We were raised in a world that was cautious and a little scared, a world that took time to spend money and to open up again and that still takes their time in making bigger decisions. The way the world had to adapt and change to the environment we have grown up in has made us who we are. Generation Z is smart and tactical. We are efficient and hopeful but we also remain cautious. We are guarded and private, despite our sharing behaviors which may seem otherwise. We are personable and connected because we know that we have to be in this world. And most importantly, we are active. We are active in our schools and in our daily lives and on social media and in relationships because we see the way the world is going and we see the hate that is running rampant and the environmental destruction and yes, we’re scared, but we’re also motivated and energized with the knowledge that we have the capabilities of fixing these major issues once we get a chance to hold that baton and make the decisions.
But beyond the issues and the politics, we are real people with real interests. We want to hear about memes and to create vlogs and learn about new places and read interviews with other cool creators our age and find new brands to shop and discover skincare routines and discuss money-making and saving and so so much more. And if we can, we want to learn and read and watch content from people within our generation because those are the people we are going to relate to and trust the most, inherently, given that they have the closest perspective to our own.
As Generation Z-ers, we are not one-dimensional nor are we for one-purpose-only. We want to create and write about what interests us, and we want to read and watch content about what interests us. And that’s where ZEE comes in.
ZEE (a play on the Generation Z[EE] name) is a platform that was founded upon the idea that Generation Z-ers are creative and brilliant and interesting and that we deserve a space on the giant interwebs to make our own. We aim to have a diverse and representational group of writers who will have total autonomy over their work — including what exactly is published, when, in what area of the website — down to the very last detail.
We understand how crucial it is to assure that Gen Z voices are being published fairly and accurately, so we will never twist around or change someone’s words or their story to make it more clickbait-worthy or intriguing. We have also promised our collaborators that we will never push them to write something they’re not comfortable with or something they don’t want to share, which is something that should seem like common sense but is, unfortunately, a situation most of our writers have experienced while trying to get their work published in other outlets (myself included).
ZEE matters because Generation Z matters. We deserve a space, and here it is.