By Lang MacDougall
The millennials are a weird bunch. I’m sure even you reading that is already bringing forth some images for you: the Tide pod challenge, fidget spinners, that Snapchat filter with the dog that always thinks my nostrils are eyes, drinks off the “secret menu” at Starbucks, or weird jargon like “fleek” and “lit.”
Except those aren’t millennials. According to the Pew Research Center, the millennial generation’s last birth year was 1996. Forbes puts it a year earlier, but both agree that the generation started in 1980. Millennials, in 2018, have long since left high school. They’re now in secondary education or beginning their careers. Many of them are already parents. Point of the matter is, they’re all grown up now. So, most of these so-called “millennials” you were, or are, thinking of are actually part of a new generation: Generation Z. These are the kids born from the years 1996 (or 1997) to 2010, meaning that the current Generation Z-er ranges in age from the age of 22 to 8. Generation Z is more technologically advanced than its predecessor. After all, millennials had MP3 players, flip phones, and the beginning of Facebook. They were the generation that saw the rise and fall of the Walkman. Generation Z got the upgrade: smartphones, iPods, and more social media apps than you can shake a stick at. Millennials grew up optimistic, under the watchful gaze of a booming economy and technological advancement, only to be violently brought back down to Earth with the events of 9/11, and then again with the Great Recession. Most of the members of Generation Z likely hardly even remember 9/11 happening, if they do at all.
But not everything this generation does is about going viral or getting likes. A more prominent Internet presence means that this new generation has a larger platform to reach a larger audience—and they’re making use of it. Social media is full of all kinds of different advocacy campaigns, whether it be for more gun control, less bullying, calling out celebrities for assorted bad behaviour, or seeking reconciliation for the actions of a nation’s past. Many such campaigns are being spearheaded by these children of Generation Z, and people are trying to shut them down. Why? “They’re just kids,” you’ve probably heard, “they don’t know what they’re talking about.” But how are their merits to an opinion any less than the average adult? For much of the 21st century, teenagers and young adults have been finding something to be ornery about. And no, they’re weren’t just doing it for attention. They were doing it because they had a cause that they believed in, a problem that they saw a solution for. For example, in the sixties, Baby Boomers were all about “making love, not war” and stopping the war in Vietnam. The generation that preceded them, the Silent Generation, mocked them for being dirty hippies and not knowing how the real world worked. Granted, some of this judgement was deserved: some Boomers were just in it for the sake of the trend. However, a majority of them did desire change. But regardless of if they were along for the trend or wanting to make a change, they all equally got flack for their actions, simply for going against the grain of the previous generation. Sound familiar?
It should. Years later, Generation Z is getting the same criticisms from its parent generations, the millennials and Generation X. If I see one more post of “they’re just kids, they know nothing about guns” or “in my day, kids weren’t this sensitive” or “I worked for six dollars an hour and was happy about it,” I might pop a gasket. You shouldn’t need to be an expert on something to have an opinion on it—usually, if enough people are saying change is needed, there’s a good chance it is.