Speed? In. Patience? Out. Social networking? In. Books? Out. Ambition? In. Submission? Out. Video games? In. Physical activity? Out. Beware of “generation Z”, in a hurry, down-to-earth, self-sufficient, and stubborn! The 2 billion youths born after 1995 in the age of the internet are determined to make their own way, with no reference to the values and hopes of the predecessors. Some researchers are fascinated by their total connection with the digital world and call them “mutants”.
They surf simultaneously on more than one screen and expect “everything, right now, everywhere.” They are happy to pay a hefty price for the latest smartphone, but also think it normal to find a free film or song at the end of a click. Grown-up references are archaic, especially when it comes to gender. They like “seditious” brands, and research everything first on social networks. This description is the fruit of studies in Europe and the United States by various conglomerates, such as BNP or Ford Motor, as they try to figure out their future clients.
According to this research, young people aged 13 to 20 think they are open-minded and creative but admit to lacking patience and flexibility.
They follow fashion spread around the world by the internet, from blockbuster films such as “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” to Korean K-Pop, including “twerking” which is all the rage online. They use acronyms and anglicisms when they speak, like “swag” instead of “cool”.
Their friends on social networks are just as important as their real life friends, and in fact they sometimes end up meeting. From the age of 16 if not younger, they visit dating websites. Over half of generation Z even reckons that their real social life is through the networks which 84% of them use, according to a study by the American advertising agency JWT. They find it easier to talk online than in the flesh.
Adepts of YouTube tutorials, self-taught high tech experts whose parents are overwhelmed, they progress with “ongoing self-study”, especially since they have already witnessed the demise of some technologies, starting with the family VCR which seems antique as do radios, CDs and DVDs, because they get everything online. Thanks to the internet they have seen it all, from violence to pornography.
They spend over 3 hours a day in front of their screens, according to Sparks and Honey, a think tank advising businesses on society trends. They suffer from “FOMO” – fear of missing out – and cannot stand losing their internet connection.
Rather than just watching TV series and films, they want to take part, create their own YouTube or vlog (video blog), inspired by famous teenagers like “Fred” (Lucas Cruikshank), a young American comedian already famous at 13.
They are involved with more than one network, starting with Facebook (although Facebook’s success is beginning to peter out in the United States), Instagram for pictures, Snapchat for short term messaging, as well as Twitter and Tumblr.
The vast majority surf online as they watch television and think technology can make anything happen. But their attention span is very short, and they speed-read rather than read in-depth, which sometimes leads to superficial understanding and problems at school.
Living at a time of economic downturn, they are picky when it comes to professional options. In France, given the same income, 25% would chose the most fun company to work for, 22% the most creative, and 21% would chose the most ethical. They hope to have a positive impact on the world and approve of volunteering, which 25% of Americans aged 16-19 are involved in (Sparks and Honey).
Most of them say they are “stressed” when they think of the future: they see it as bleak, especially for the environment and the economy.