Generation Z: What the Me! Me! Generation Means for You

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!

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    • Glenn

      Clearly this new generation is the most “networked” group ever. On the “fluff” side, we have cats playing pianos, but on the other hand, we have the Arab Spring! Education is truly being reinvented – and I am very optimistic about how much smarter Gen Z will be than previous generations.

      As mentioned, it is critical that with all this information at our fingertips that they (and everyone else!) get better at discerning fact from opinion. While this has always been true (see the recent HuffingtonPost article about “The Problem With America’s History Books”), it has become something we and our kids now must do on a daily basis. But the big benefit now is that with so much access, we are better equiped to make these judgements.

      • Adrienne McGuire

        As usual Glenn, you bring great points to the discussion. It is so amazing to watch my children with all of this information at their fingertips! They often spout off incorrect facts but they also know so much more CORRECT facts than I ever did at their ages!

        We can only guide them, and I guess, hope for the best!

    • Laurie

      Adrienne, this article was awesome and truly hit an emotional nerve with me! What I have seen in many of the Gen Zers that I come into contact with in the work space is that they rely so heavily on technology to the point that the simple acts of giving change or remembering some of the facts they read about is just not possible without a machine. The comments I receive about such things is that they don’t have to know if they can use a calculator or look it up.

      I fear for them if they ever do lose electricity for any length of time. The largest complaints that I had from coworkers and friends who suffered lengthy outages during Hurricane Sandy was the inability of their children to cope and occupy themselves without agitation or fear. I hope that many people read this and start incorporating “old-fashioned activities” into their own lives as well as their children’s lives.

      • Adrienne McGuire

        It has been important to me as well as I raise my children in this era. I make sure they are in touch with their creative sides regularly. For example, all of last evening was spent with the three of us playing an imaginary role playing game and we got so into it that hours past before we even realized it! No technology was involved!

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    • Mone

      Ha… ha… this is interesting….

      I like this post… We have generation X, Y and now Z…. Whats next… Yeah the END.. Whatever we do here on earth is no accident, its all part of God’s Plan… “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3)

      The Characteristics of the generation Z can be seen in the Bible in
      2 Timothy 3 New International Version (NIV)

      3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents,ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people…

      Simple as That…. its funny how we wanted to make things; just us…