Gen Zs have copped a loooooot of flak from older generations.
‘Self-obsessed’ has been weaponised a lot. ‘Entitled’ has been pretty popular. ‘Snowflake’ has been a particular favourite amongst boomers.
But the more you know about the world’s first digital natives, the more ‘self-obsessed’ sounds a lot more like ‘self-aware’, and the more ‘entitled’ resembles ‘self-secure’, ‘assertive’, or dynamic.
More like a generation unafraid of speaking up and challenging oppressive conventions.
From breaking taboos to re-defining expectations, here’s a short list of flexes Gen Zs have on everyone else.
- They’re taking mental wellbeing mainstream
While previous generations balked at discussing mental health problems, Gen Zs have been using social media to smash stigmas and take mental wellbeing mainstream.
In fact, according to our Gen Z Wellbeing Check research, 91% of Gen Zs ‘take their mental health seriously’ and are embracing therapy on a whole other level than generations before them, with 41% of Gen Zs having seen a mental health professional for therapy including 16% currently and 25% previously.
Despite their young age this compares well with the one in five Millennials who see a therapist or psychiatrist in a regular calendar year, along with 16% of Gen X and 4% of baby boomers.
- Gen Zs are taking a major stand against sexual harassment and assault
…while insisting we break free of the cultural scripts and taboos that silenced the generations before them. And the results have been astounding.
First, there was the Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins effect, which triggered “a feminist insurgency that has placed the issue of women’s safety, and men’s abuses of power, at the centre of our national conversation”.
Then in February 2021, influencer Chanel Contos polled her Instagram followers asking if they – or someone close to them – had been sexually harassed or assaulted while they were at school.
More than 200 of Contos’s young followers said they’d experienced sexual harassment or assault while at school, prompting her to launch an online petition called ‘Teach Us Consent’, which demanded holistic sexual consent education be implemented in the national school’s curriculum.
When forty-four thousand young people signed it, the petition caught the attention of state and federal MPs, who unanimously agreed to embed consent education including education about coercion, power imbalances, and gendered stereotyping in the national curriculum.
That’s pretty cool if you ask us.
- They’re re-defining expectations about careers and success
Gen Zs are more focused on designing a life built on passion and purpose. With websites like Year13 dedicated to showing just how many work and study options there are out there, teenagers today don’t have to deal with the lack of information previous generations did when finishing school and can find the path which is genuinely right for them much more easily.
They’re also unafraid of shaking things up if things don’t feel right, like this 18-year-old male from Western Australia who told us how he changed his major several times to make sure he was following the right path.
“To prepare for a successful future I am seeking out my interests,” he said.
“I have changed course twice. I know I won’t be successful if I’m not interested in what I’m actually doing. I’m worried about getting a qualification and not liking the job.”
How self-aware is that?
- They’re demanding more from big businesses
Gen Zs know that companies with big resources and influence are in a prime position to push for change – even when governments lag behind.
When asked if big businesses should be involved in trying to solve issues related to their industry – like fashion brands and sustainable production, car companies and climate change, fast food and obesity – 97% of youth respondents said they should.
“If businesses are to profit they should attempt to inject good back into the world from which they profit,” a 17-year-old female from South Australia told us in our Gen Z & Corporate Activism report.
“Standing against child, worker or animal exploitation are common ethics, but to support underprivileged communities or campaign against injustices is action.”
We surveyed over a thousand young Australians about how their social and environmental concerns drive their spending and relationships with business with 88% saying they are more likely to buy from a business that puts part of its profits towards good causes.
“Businesses need to learn that Gen Z has a huge impact on everyday spending and that we are way more in tune with wanting the earth to last for our kids and their kids,” a 21-year-old female from NSW said.
“We want the earth and its contents to be better than they are now; more diversity and celebration of diversity, cleaner air, clean water for everyone, no more world hunger or poverty.
“We aim high and so should everyone else.”
That’s a pretty big flex if you ask us.