Generation Z’ is a term that refers to the generation that was born between the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s. But more importantly, the term refers to a set of characteristics. Among them are having used the Internet since a young age, and being generally comfortable with technology as well as quick to interact on social media
As my generation has progressed and slowly grown up, the biggest issue we have faced, to my mind, is the generational gap that is perceived as larger than ones between other previous generations and it’s results. There are many reasons for why this could be. Many are quick to argue that because we were born at the beginning of the period where technology became not just a complicated tool using which we improved our lives, but an integral part of who we are and how we innovate, function, and live, we are different in a number of key ways. Namely, less socially-savvy, less capable of normal communication that is not instant and some, even associate us with laziness — a characteristic that is often also attributed to “Millennials” the demographic cohort that came before “Generation Z.”
I am writing this because I believe that this notion is a misconception that is rooted in a contorted understanding of the human relationship with technology.
Allow me to explain, I believe that technological changes and inventions are a reflection of changes to human nature. Naturally, they feed and nurture each other, but I believe that first comes the human development or aspiration, and next comes to the technological development (which often serves as a solution or answer). This explains why some technological developments are more widely adopted than others.
As the world, and humans have progressed, we have increasingly looked for more answers, more information, and finally, more sharing of information. The first two aspirations were revolutionized by the internet and the information revolution, the last was answered by Social Media platforms. Human interactions have also become quicker and easier because our need for information and desire to collaborate more effectively has grown and social media has provided a solution for that along with other challenges and hopes that have arisen over time.
Having said that, the criticism remains. While Social media and other developments may not have been the cause of the change in human nature that has created the perception of my generation being shallow, lazy, and anti-social, the perception still exists.
This perception is not just wrong, but also the result of basic ignorance of older generations.
Because of the exponential rate of technological development, it is indeed possible that the gap between generation Z and previous ones is bigger than others that came before it. But the result of this is what’s key to dissecting the issue. This has caused a misunderstanding of how this generation thinks, and a certain level of ignorance with regard to the need for implementing new frameworks and structures in order to allow for the best of Generation Z to be brought to fruition.
The main impactful result of this misunderstanding is reflected in education. Even though we are different, the education system is the same. The few instances in which technology is used are as an after-thought, usually, and almost never included from the ground up. Because of this, the education system is largely irrelevant to me, along with many other students. Yet, because of these inherent misconceptions and lack of understanding for basic changes in human nature, when teachers see students on their phones during class, chatting on WhatsApp, posting stories on various mediums and sometimes just reading an interesting post, they assume its caused by laziness, sometimes even stupidity, when in fact, it is routed in place of distress.
Why is it that I, along with many other students feel like the learning only starts once we finish school and get back to our other interests and activities?
The teaching methods that once worked don’t anymore and don’t bring out the best in today’s students, so we turn to our devices as a distraction in the worst cases and if we’re lucky, as a tool for unconventional self-education, but that distinction is never made by those who need to recognize it most.
The communication platforms we use that are claimed to be the root of our shallow conversations and addiction to our smartphones are simply a tool. In fact, the content has nothing to do with them. The reason behind the content of the subjects discussed being often not as meaningful as we would like is a result of the negative and un-inclusive approach our educators have applied to these tools.
If the education system were to build entrepreneurship and technology into its core curriculum and take into account the marvels of online information and new forms of learning, these tools and devices could be a platform for building meaningful relationships with information, with people and most importantly, with ideas.
Let me be clear, this is not a direct criticism of teachers. They do the best with what they’ve got — a heavily outdated system. It is on us, as a society that reveres education and on our leaders and policymakers to reform the education system.
Because this never happened, my generation’s potential is being swallowed and drowned.
Having said all that, regardless of the educational failure we have been provided with, we have seen more and more young entrepreneurs in all fields (from technology to poetry, to social activism) develop from this generation than possibly any previous one. Just take one look at the “March for our lives” that took place on Sunday. A student-led demonstration against America’s lack of gun control with over 800 sibling events throughout the United States and around the world. With two million marching across the United States, it was the largest student protest in American history, one of the largest marches on Washington in history, and the second largest march in American history.
Yet, the question remains; why is it that I, along with other innovators and entrepreneurs act despite the system and are often forced to work against it, instead of as a result of it? Furthermore, one can only imagine the potential good that could come of rebuilding the education system as one that brings all students to such achievements and greatness.
Generation Z will change the world, we already are. But how we do so will largely be influenced by those guide us on this path, instill our values and build our initial relationships with modern developments.