by Brielle E. Wyka
Generation Z: according to the latest Census, that’s us. Anyone born from 1997-2016 is not a Millennial, but an entirely new generation, part of a larger instagramming, yellow-wearing, individuality-seeking group of people. There are plenty of articles – positive and negative – on the internet written by people older than us who comment on our lives as we come of age in this world. They’re analyzing the world we’ve grown up in, what events in history have shaped us, what trends are influencing us, but rarely are they ever stopping to ask us how we’re managing it all. And we deserved to be asked, “How are you holding up?” Because a lot of the time, our signature sunshiny yellow isn’t quite an accurate representation of what we’re going through.
We’ve grown up in a world where we put the best versions of our lives out on display and consume the same from everyone else in our world. No one posts their #nomakeup selfie without finding just the right lighting and angle to make it look equal to any of the other pictures they post. No one rinstas their true feelings, instead they save various rants of pent-up anger and frustration for the finsta crowd. No one is ever able to say to you in person what they say to you in pixels. Our profiles are portfolios we present to the world, claiming they’re pure and accurate depictions of our lives, portraying perfection in every post. In our captions, we quote the poets of our time – Kanye, Halsey, Post Malone – posing as profound. In reality, we are still teenagers. We feel the same gray gloom as the emo kids of the 00s. We’re still as irrational and rebellious as the punks of the 90s. And our hearts break just as easily as the romantics of the 80s.
No one posts the setbacks, losses, or struggles they overcome on a day-to-day basis. Our pain is silent, and when we dare give it a voice we suffer more in a numerical value. People are less likely to hit like on a topic that makes them uncomfortable, less likely to comment on a struggle that isn’t typically shared, and less likely to follow someone who is always broadcasting misery. And the same behavior bleeds into real life – we don’t talk about what’s going through our heads because we think no one wants to know. We laugh it off, not wanting to be the one sending out the bad vibes. It’s all good vibes and peace signs in our profile pictures but behind our faces, there’s an uncertainty.
The majority of Gen Z hasn’t grown up yet. We’re still kids, we’re still figuring it out, we’re still struggling, and that’s okay. Just because you don’t see it on social media, doesn’t mean it’s not happening, but that’s easy to forget when you’re consuming perfection 24/7 and experiencing it once in a million moments. It’s easy to forget that everyone hurts the same as you when your feed is full of nothing but smiles. It’s easy to forget that people have weaknesses when all they’re doing is highlighting their strengths. We all go to school, flunk tests, have bad days, get overwhelmed, but no one seems to express that on a deeper level than a fleeting complaint phrased wittily and designed to get a quick like before others scroll past.
So what does that say about us? We’re incredibly resilient, for one. The thing about GenZ is that we don’t really know a world that’s any different. Our reality is not the same as the Millennials or Gen X-ers, or especially the Boomers. But the best part about our generation is the ability to cultivate our own worlds, to live in them without even having to take a single step. We find our little corners of the internet to come back to when our immediate social media doesn’t match what we feel because we’ve grown up to be resourceful like that. We’re able to find something we love and devote our whole energy to it because we can – we have both the will and the way. That’s why when you ask us if we’re okay, we’re going to tell you we’re just fine. You don’t have to worry about us. Social media is both isolating and integrating, for better and worse, but we choose to make it for the better. When we feel alone we just use it as a tool to encourage ourselves to branch out and find new outlets. Like I said – we’re resilient. That’s where our signature yellow shines through.
With our tools, we become the greatest networkers, researchers, and creators the world has ever seen. We get to choose the flow of information we take in. We have the resources to communicate our thoughts and feelings to billions of people, to enact real change with a few taps of our fingers, to know as much or as little as we want. We make our identities through the things we learn and like on the internet. Whether we like it or not, our actions are always public – a lesson we have to figure out ourselves as we grow up in this new world. We’re not always going be able to feel those good vibes everyone’s putting out, but we know that they’ll always be there, and that’s enough.