Generation Z, or Gen Z, makes up one of the youngest yet most diverse groups of America’s population. As of 2020, this generation is in the age range of 8-23, but is already extremely influential in the United States. By utilizing the internet and social media platforms, Gen Z has inspired political protests, social movements, volunteer work, and activism among other things. Gen Z is passionate, understanding, and accepting. Outspoken, determined, resistant, and headstrong. They are smart and talented. Gen Z are leaders. But, there is one thing that will set Gen Z apart from previous generations: adaptability. The Coronavirus has forced billions of Americans into their homes for over seven months, limiting school access, social gatherings, and political discussion. All of these factor into the lives of Gen Z, enabling them to grow in the ability to adapt.
Gen Z spans elementary, middle, and high school, in addition to some higher education. The Covid-19 crisis has hit students extremely hard in the spring semester of the 2019-2020 school year and the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Because of this, the internet and online or hybrid schooling are now primary modes of learning for American students. Some teachers utilize resources like zoom and google meet to interact with students while not physically in the classroom. Educators are forced to teach students of all ages through the internet. If on-campus, learning is inhibited by new and different barriers or social-distancing regulation. Despite the difficulty to concentrate in different settings, Gen Z is expected to continue their schooling. With the pressure of grades, standardized tests, and college applications piled on top of distracting and sometimes inadequate new learning environments, Gen Z is under a lot of stress. However, these new environments allow students to grow in organization, responsibility, self-motivation, and communication. Gen Z has risen to the challenge and learned the life skills to be resilient and adaptable in even the most stressful of situations.
Movies like Clueless and Mean Girls depict high school life as revolving around social status and parties. However, for Gen Z in the age of Covid-19, social life isn’t the same. Not only are there virtually no parties, but even small gatherings are few and far between. To some, going out to eat or going to the movies is not only dangerous, but possibly deadly. Even so, Gen Z has adapted to maintain social lives while still practicing social distancing. In addition to FaceTime and Zoom calls, Gen Z has found some increasingly creative ways to socialize during a pandemic. Drive-by parties are a popular way to celebrate birthdays, where at a set time people drive by the house of someone celebrating a birthday to say hi and possibly give a gift. Another common way of socializing for Gen Z is through video games, the most popular of which at present is called “Among Us,” where friends can chat together while playing a virtual game similar to the in-person role playing game Werewolf or the board game Clue. Through virtual gatherings and creative thinking, Gen Z has shown incredible success in adapting to maintain their relationships while respecting Covid-19 guidelines.
Although less than half of Gen Z can vote, the majority of teens and young adults still exercise their political voice. Racial injustice, transphobia, and climate change, among other political issues, sparked protests and political and social movements in 2020. However, Covid-19 has limited the ability to exercise the freedom of assembly. Social distancing statutes and the limitation of the number of people in the same place at the same time have severely minimized the amount of in-person gatherings. However, Gen Z has adapted, finding numerous other creative ways to protest and exercise their political voices. Instagram is a prime example. Many people use this social platform to educate others about political issues (particularly through the “story” function) and share links to sign online petitions. In addition, videos are created and shared through platforms such as YouTube and TikTok by Gen Z to discuss political topics and spread their ideas. Gen Z has used the resources available to them, such as social media and the internet, to adapt to the Covid-19 crisis in their political discussions.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it many difficulties. For Gen Z, however, these are simply opportunities. Opportunities to show leadership and resilience. Opportunities to grow, both together and as individuals. Covid-19 has not only shown Gen Z what adaptability means, but it made them into the very definition of it.
Episcopal Collegiate School Junior