Alas, Generation Z is coming of age. With many now in their teens, our ingenious yet curious Gen Zees, when unplugged from their screens, are facing M-rated social situations like sex, drugs and mental illness for the first time. The problem? These situations don’t come with an app. Inaugural exposure to intense adolescent situations like these, without a clue, could force our driven Gen Zees into a teenage wasteland.
As a Gen Z expert, I’ve identified the need for researchers to go beyond the screen and explore the unplugged trends among Gen Z, the social and behavioral trends discussed not nearly enough – topics such as substance abuse, anxiety from pressure to succeed, mental health & mental illness, sexual consent, and relationships. With a deeper understanding of Gen Z at 360 degrees, other generations can better mentor, work, market and educate Gen Z more accurately.
Why look at the unplugged side?
Unplugged life can be enticing but confusing: Here are a few examples:
They’re concocting triple strength cocktails that get you wasted in less than 8 seconds. They’re memorizing, “Yes Means Yes”, for the fortuitous time they consent to non-digital sex. Or wait, do they say, “No Means Yes”, to the campus druggie dressed in norm core, disguised in a cashmere hoodie selling bath salts? Legal or not, many Gen Zees are ingesting marijuana, the perfect remedy for anxiety brought on by the deluge of academic and socio-economic pressures, surely amplified by social media.
For a Gen Z, unplugged life is harder to navigate than a plugged-in life. Screens don’t teach social skills. First, instead of hanging out at the mall or with friends 24/7 interacting and developing social skills, they’ve been on the couch curating, screening and basically, controlling their social environment. Some have mastered social interaction, manhave not. Being tech-smart is one thing, being street-smart is completely different.
Rates of anxiety are high among Gen Z. Gen Z in particular needs more support to deal with academic pressures. With rates of anxiety among 13-18 year olds at 25%, let’s explore why and how this high rate of anxiety effects Gen Z’s performance now and their promising future. And many more claim to have undiagnosed anxiety – why is anxiety such a loose term today? The lines at the college (and high school) health centers are the longest ever.
Society’s ascending interest in Gen Z is coveted by businesses that want to “work with Gen Z” or by marketers who want to “reach Gen Z”. Let’s understand Gen Z developmentally before society accelerates their youth even more. These social situations are too important and consequential to be cut from getting to know Gen Z emotionally and developmentally.
Stay tuned for my series on Generation Z, Unplugged where I will take you through the not-so-popular trends among our rising stars, Gen Z.