If you remember life before YouTube and Facebook, then you are not a member of Generation Z. Born in the mid-1990s, along with Netscape and other early graphical web browsers, members of Generation Z comprise the first generation never to live without the internet. They expect to inherit from previous generations an onerous legacy – a world in crisis over climate change, inequity, and social revolution.
Roberta Katz is co-author of Gen Z, Explained: The Art of Living in a Digital Age, recently out from the University of Chicago Press. She is a senior research scholar at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, an interdisciplinary research lab at Stanford University.
While most takes on Gen Z are unforgivingly judgmental, describing lives permanently distracted by social media, Katz and her colleagues in anthropology, linguistics, history, and sociology offer a richer, more optimistic view of a confident, collaborative cohort.
“The digital revolution has come on with unprecedented speed. It has presented us with unprecedented scope and scale of information. And most importantly, it has kind of given a rocket boost to how we communicate.”
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According to her team’s findings, Gen Zers say relevance in communication is critical to them.
“They’ve grown up with such an abundance of information, they had to get good at sorting what they needed from what they didn’t. It’s not always an absolute good to be dismissive of something that you don’t think is relevant. But it comes from having learned how to deal with an abundance of information.
“The internet is all about communication,” Katz explains. “And if you think about the importance of communication to human life and the fact that we have this extraordinarily powerful new tool, you begin to understand why this revolution has us all kind of with our heads spinning.”