Photo courtesy of Allen Skyy
Anyone who was born after the late 1990s grew up in the digital era and never knew life before the World Wide Web. Known as ‘Generation Z’, today’s young people started Googling and Skype-ing right around the same time they started peeing in the potty.
Texting, Face-timing, downloading apps – these are all second nature to Generation Z, and they all have a multitude of webpages dedicated to their own self-promotion (think Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, WordPress and LinkedIn.)
Another thing specific to Generation Z is their intense fascination with memes – funny pictures, sayings, and YouTube videos that they share with their friends via email, Facebook or Twitter. Ask any of them what ‘meme’ really means, and you’ll probably be met with a blank stare, but only for as long as it takes them to Google it.
If they did Google it, they’d discover that the word ‘meme’ came from the Greek word ‘mimeme’, and it was determined by biologist Richard Dawkins that a meme is any cultural entity imitated by humans, like nursery rhymes, prejudice, and phrases, like “Where’s the beef?” Dawkins coined the term ‘meme’ in his book, The Selfish Gene, but it has gone mostly unused for 30 until now, when, coincidentally what has been dubbed America’s most self-absorbed generation ever, brought it back to life.
Their self-absorbed reputation stems from the fact that these digital natives spend a lot of time alone, ensconced in their digital lives instead of spending time with other people. Although they may have a lot of friends, they communicate with them largely through virtual interactions like texting, Skype-ing, and Facebooking.
Dealing with their “Me! Me!” attitudes and their tech-focused communication skills can take some getting used to. I have two children who are members of Generation Z, and I always try to balance their technology-rich lives with old-fashioned activities like scavenger hunts, card games, and face-to-face talking. If you’re also a parent of a Gen Z-er, it’s important to monitor their technology use and mix it up with real world experiences.
Teaching a classroom full of Generation Z-ers or managing them at work could put your traditional leadership skills to the test if you’re not already parents of tech savvy kids. Constant access to speedy electronic devices has created a generation with a strong desire for instant feedback. Also, although they have tons of information at their fingertips, they sometimes have trouble determining which sources are reliable (evidenced by the recent popularity of Wikipedia for research purposes.)
If you are a member of Generation Z, and you’ve reached early adulthood, real life situations like marriage could prove challenging for you. If your significant other is also a Z-er, and much of your courtship was largely based on Facebook interactions with a little sexting thrown in on the side, make sure you flip down the lid of your laptop and power down your iPhone in favor of some in-person lip service. Although those me!me! messages can be really funny, what’s even better is when she holds your hand while you talk about us!us!