Gen Z is screwed. I wish it weren’t true. I’ve spent years practicing gratitude, excited to wake up alive each sunny day and deeply appreciative of little things, like the fact my smartphone has YouTube. The great kings of old got to hear Mozart performed twice a year. I get that every day, plus running water and toilets. Talk about privilege.
But the sad truth is that those advances don’t make us happy. Humans are ambitious, greedy, and have an in-built negativity bias. We thrive on communities and love that are disappearing into a bleak isolation. Depression and anxiety and suicide are on the rise. None of us can count on marriage or kids or a family, let alone homes we consider nice and things that make us feel rich enough or successful enough. Some of my dreams are not only unfulfilled, but I don’t feel I have the right to pursue them.
The sad truth is for all the joy we’ve created, we have also created a great well of intense pain.
People are suffering.
Gen Z does not have a childhood to look back on. We learned far too young about the terrible things happening on the planet and we took it to heart. (If we didn’t, we risked being ostracized for ignorance or cruelty.) We didn’t party much or have sex. We worried about long-term partners. I have yet to meet anyone under the age of 23 who had a happy, carefree, and frivolous childhood. Kids are no longer kids.
Then we grew up. Today, half of Gen Zers over 18 have reported lost jobs and pay cuts, significantly higher than the shares of millennials, Gen Xers, and boomers. Young workers were particularly vulnerable to job loss over the pandemic year.
We are so stressed. We are significantly more likely than other generations to report negative mental health. For a full quarter of us, discrimination is a key stressor. Over 45% of teens say they are online almost constantly, especially on YouTube and Instagram. Well-known for toxic influencer culture, unrealistic beauty and life standards, and perpetuating mental health problems, those platforms are causing real harm to our self-esteem and self-worth.