Generation Z has no comprehension of a world without the Internet, smartphones, Google, YouTube and social media. They have not had to adapt to this digital reality. They were born into it. Much like a child does not have to consciously learn their native tongue, Generation Z sees technology as their natural form of communication, an ever-present extension of their reality. They are comfortable integrating technology into every aspect of their lives. Nearly 50% of Gen Zs are connected to the Internet for 10 or more hours a day.
They are the ultimate consumers of ‘snack media’ – short articles, podcasts and videos created to convey quick messages which can be consumed while multitasking or browsing the Internet. Studies suggest their brains have evolved to process more information at faster speeds, handling bigger mental challenges as a result. “Research suggests that their brains have evolved to process more information at faster speeds and are cognitively more nimble to handle bigger mental challenges. They think spatially and in 4D. Gen Z have always known how to zoom, pinch and swipe. They have grown up with hi-def, surround-sound, 3D and now 4D – 360 degree photography and film is their normal. But as a result of all this their attention spans are getting shorter. Getting and keeping their attention is harder.“ Julian Smith, The Drum.
Due to their access to information, exposure to global media and the issues discussed through these channels, Generation Z is more aware of and concerned about issues of social justice, politics and environmental sustainability problems than previous generations. The less positive outcome of their digital existence is that they spend more time in front of computer screens and are less physically active and socially-integrated than their predecessors.
Members of Generation Z live so much of their lives online that the concept of Digital Intimacy has become a real part of their social interactions. Technology allows them to feel closer to others. Not only do they forge deep relationships with people they meet through the Internet, they also interact with their ‘real life’ friends and family through the Internet and smartphone apps. They are just as likely to have a Snapchat conversation with their best friend as they are to have a sleepover. In many ways they are more accustomed to, and comfortable in their virtual environments than in their physical ones. One in three believes that online relationships are just as meaningful as interpersonal relationships. One in four says they feel close to people online whom they have yet to meet face-to-face. (Interestingly, Gen Z’s cyber connections strongly resemble the digital version of the old fashioned pen pals their grandparents had during the snail-mail era.)
The culture of gaming and playing in their ‘virtual playground’ has had a big influence on Generation Z. The gamer ‘Get in, get out, and try again’ mantra leads to Generation Z having a relaxed attitude to failure. If you try something and it doesn’t work out, just start again and try something different. Gaming in online virtual and augmented reality games along with other players also teaches strategy, collaboration, teamwork and interpersonal skills (albeit in cyberspace) as well as crowdsourcing, co-creation and crowd- funding on a global scale.
Technology and Generation Z are inextricably linked. They have been using it as a tool for most aspects of their lives and, in turn, it has moulded this generation’s mindset into one of resourcefulness and getting things done. Knowledge and connection are available at the push of a button and they have been taking full advantage of the benefits of technology to craft a life that’s individualistic and authentic to who they are and their belief systems turning many into social justice warriors.
For more insights into Generation Z as consumers and a workforce, Flux Trends has just released the Generation Z – Architects of the New World Order report. In our upcoming webinar The Post-School Economy :The Future of Education on the 16th of July, we take a good hard look at the future of education for this generation, and what learning could be if we stop focusing on certificates, and start focusing on useful skills and self-fulfilling personal development.