Understanding Gen Zs

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What you need to know:

  • It is true that they are not too keen on traditional, organised religion, and many of them believe in manifesting, pre-destination and zodiac signs.

  • Their philosophy on love and relationships is also quite different from that of the older generations, and have been accused of being non-committal in relationships.

Generation Z is a term that refers to individuals born between the mid to late ‘90s and the early 2010s. It is a generation that views itself as bold, self-expressive and confident. However, the generation before them views them as lazy, rude, entitled, impatient and keen to take the easy way out. Recently, this generation entered the work force, and since then there has been uproar from employers across the world who accuse them of being unprepared for the demands of work and overly dependent on the internet for everything. 

It is true that they are not too keen on traditional, organised religion, and many of them believe in manifesting, pre-destination and zodiac signs. Their philosophy on love and relationships is also quite different from that of the older generations, and have been accused of being non-committal in relationships. Their fashion sense is also bolder and more expressive. 

All this has seen them attract widespread condemnation, and there is raging debate on whether it is parents or the society at large that is to blame for their peculiar behaviour. MyNetwork had a chat with five members of this generation to get their perspectives.

Photo credit: Pool

Brian Akatsa, 24
Project assistant

Yes, it is true that we, Gen Zs, prefer short cuts, at the workplace and elsewhere. I’ve heard employers complain that we prefer the easier route of making use of the internet instead of using traditional methods of, say, data collection. I, however, wonder why this is wrong. The internet is supposed to make work easier, and is available, why, then, shouldn’t we utilise it? If I want data on a certain topic, all I need to do is simply make use of a data mining software or create a Google form and share it in various social media platforms. The feedback I get from this might even be more accurate, so I wonder why the perception about Gen Zs’ attitude towards work out there is so negative. 

I don’t believe that AI technologies such as ChatGPT and GPT-4 are going to make me and my agemates even ‘lazier’, rather, such software will instead increase our output and enable us work more efficiently. 

I am glad that at my workplace my colleagues appreciate how different I am, and that I do my things a little differently. What keeps me there is that at the end of the day, I execute my role perfectly. My work ethic stand out. 

Our over reliance on the internet is due to the fact that we grew up in a digital age. In my early teens, instead of engaging in outdoor activities such as football, I was engrossed in online gaming, which affected my ability to socialise. I developed social anxiety because of spending so much time on screens, so it is hard for me to communicate and associate with new people or to feel comfortable in new environments. However, I am trying to improve. 

We are outspoken. I know that there exists a thin line between being outspoken and being rude, so I try to be careful not to offend others whenever I am making a point. 

In my generation, good fashion sense is highly important, however, I have observed that our preferred dressing styles do not appeal to older generations, who believe in decency. What they don’t understand is that for us, dressing is a form of self-expression.

I have also heard people complain that Gen Zs want to be millionaires by age 20, and have unrealistic expectations of life. That we are easily attracted to get-rich quick deals and are unwilling to put in the work and effort required for success. That we believe the world owes us niceties. I agree, but not all of us live in the moment without a care for the future. 

That said, I don’t see many people lauding us for creating new career paths. Few are talking about the fact that it is our generation that has invented this new job called content creation, which is quite lucrative. I think we deserve praise for that. 
On the increase of mental health cases among Zoomers, I’d like people to know that we are fighting battles that are totally different from what previous generations faced. Many of us come from broken families and are living in a world where the unemployment rate is very high. 

Pressure from social media and fear of missing out is what pushes that 22-year-old to dream of buying a car.

What we need is for society to understand the unique challenges we face. Try to understand us,  try to put yourselves in our shoes. Most people just point fingers at us without bothering to find out what we need.

Photo credit: Pool

Maggie Kinyanjui, 23
Actress, baker, project manager

I rarely watch news on TV, nor do I read newspapers. I get  the information I need from Twitter or online news sites. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. 

I am glad that some workplaces are beginning to see the need to tap into Gen Z’s creative minds, and are embracing the fresh perspectives that they bring on board. 

They say we are very entitled, but this could actually be a good thing. What people out there call entitlement, I call confidence. If I feel like I deserve an iPhone and I save enough to buy the latest one, am I entitled?

I agree that there are some of us who want to be handed things on a silver platter, such as internships and jobs when they are not qualified, but those are isolated cases. 

And why is there so much hue and cry about the fact that we make certain decision based on emotion, or what we call “vibes”? whenever I interact with someone for the first time, I keenly pick up on the kind of energy they radiate. I listen to my gut and I decide whether or not to keep engaging with a particular person. I don’t think twice about cutting someone off when I feel someone’s energy is incompatible to mine. What is wrong with that?

I do whatever makes me happy. I live in the moment, but with great caution. As I grow older, I find that I am transitioning to a place where after a demanding week at work, I prefer to stay home and enjoy my own company instead of going out to party. I interact with a lot of people at work and staying indoors helps me recharge my social battery. 

Unlike what others think, I don’t seek validation from social media, rather, I appreciate feedback, which helps me grow in my acting career. I enjoy creating entertaining monologues and dialogue reels on Instagram, and I do feel good and encouraged when I get positive feedback, but that doesn’t mean I am actively pursuing fame. 

Yes, we are very bold and unapologetic when it comes to dressing, but that is just who we are. We also don’t believe in romantic relationships that last forever. Most of us consider love to be a scam, and often, we stagnate at the talking stage, but that should not be used to accuse us of sleeping around or being non-committal in relationships. 

Photo credit: Pool

Shaleen Wanjiru, 20
Podcaster, student and Masiz Pamoja International co-founder

We live in the age of the infodemic. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with huge and diverse pieces of information, and there are very few people who are willing to guide us without judging us. 

There is a big blame game between parents and schools over who is responsible for our peculiar behaviour. We find ourselves caught in between, and then we get blamed for seeking answers from social media, which might not have accurate or appropriate information since it is mostly based on the views of others. 

I think that we are a very straightforward generation, we are woke. We call a spade a spade, never a big spoon. I think this doesn’t sit well with the older generation. They feel we are rude yet we just prefer speaking our mind. I believe my social network is my net worth and therefore I care what others think of me. 

There is also this misconception that Gen Zs don’t care about the future. I disagree with this because, why would we be advocating for issues such as climate change if we don’t care? Additionally, Zoomers are not lazy. They just prefer to rely on technological innovations. That is why so many tech start-ups are owned by young people. 

Unlike some of my age-mates who have shunned religion and claim to believe in the universe and zodiac signs, I am a dedicated Christian.  

As for relationships, most Gen Zs do not believe in love, and that is because we have seen our parents get divorced, and some have endured gender based violence at home. 

Another notion I disagree with is the idea that because we are young, we have no reason to be stressed, and so we should not be taking medication, such as antidepressants. I think society is to blame here for failing to provide a good environment for us to grow wholesomely. 

With this tough economy, how can one navigate life without worrying about the future, especially when we find ourselves educated yet unemployed? 

I would urge my fellow Gen Zs to take things easy and not to succumb to social media pressure. Good things take time. And I would like the older generations to stop stereotyping us and instead understand that the world is changing. 

Photo credit: Pool

Razar Festus, 22
 Poet and actor

Social media might not always be a good thing, but I can confess that it has given me a platform to express myself. Through it I can upload content and get immediate feedback from my audience. 

Some have said that our generating is obsessed with content creation, and that we are overusing Tiktok. Well, everyone has a purpose in life, and before we find that purpose, we engage in content creation. Who knows? Perhaps that may lead us to our purpose.

I am taking a science course in university and I am dedicated in my studies, but I wouldn’t mind becoming an actor. I am flexible in my career goals and won’t limit myself to white collar jobs which keep you at work for eight solid hours every day.
Commenting on mental health, people should stop feigning surprise whenever they hear news of 17-year-olds who say they are depressed. There is so much pressure on us to succeed, which can lead to stress. We face different problems compared to what Millennials and Gen Xers faced. We are going through a lot and the older folk should not judge us without knowing what we are enduring. Older people should offer direction instead of only pointing out our mistakes. 

Photo credit: Pool

Jackson Ngari, 22
Media and Communication student at Rongo University

I am very vocal on Twitter, my account is verified. My followers keep tabs on my fears as a member of Gen Z. I always speak my mind and share my opinions on trending topics. 

I use social media to network and to meet new people. I acquired my first phone at age 14, so I consider myself quite tech savvy. 

Content creation is inherent in Gen Zs.  The reason we like sharing all aspects of our lives on social media is because we were born in a digital age. 

You want to know what my ideal workplace would be? I prefer a lively working environment. To me, the level of pay isn’t so important. I would give up a job without thinking twice if the environment there was toxic. I see nothing wrong with that. Older people should understand that we know what we are doing and know what we want.

I laud my fellow Zoomers for being outspoken even when faced with challenges, unlike older generations who were told that men, for instance, had to keep their problems to themselves.