Where is our generation going now?
How does Generation Z tick? - "I think success and status are becoming less important"
A moment ago the selfish-narcissistic Generation Y was being hacked, now Generation Z is already moving up. The members of Generation Z, born after 1998, are seen as politically, socially, and tolerant. But also as worrying and demanding (see text box “Generation Z”).
One member of this generation is the student Smilla Diener: she will be 20 years old in 2020. We wanted to know from her: How does Generation Z tick in her eyes? What is a fact - and what, perhaps, also prejudice?
SRF: A study says, Link opens in a new window, that Generation Z is worried about the future. How are you doing?
Smilla Diener: Of course I'm worried. Our generation is shaped by a lot of uncertainty and change. The climate crisis, for example, has a huge impact on our time. Our generation is addressing this debate like no generation before us has. This is an expression of the great uncertainty that prevails.
Generation Z (born 1998 - today)
Generational labels are often short-lived, but the many studies and surveys that examine generational characteristics draw sharper contours over a certain age group.
Generation Z, born after 1998, are assigned the following characteristics: They ...
Generation Z is preparing for an uncertain future with a good education, it is said. Is that the same for you?
Many may not know exactly what they are working towards. We feel how fast and ever faster everything is changing. Many people around me want good training so that they can respond well to changes.
The economist Christian Scholz writes, Link opens in a new window, Generation Z has recognized that the dreams of older people rarely come true. So: would you rather choose a down-to-earth job or dream big?
It's in the nature of twenty-year-olds to have big dreams.
Are these dreams sometimes unrealistic career aspirations?
Nobody can seriously judge this because nobody knows what jobs there will actually be and need in 15 years. But to decide for a job in your teenage years and pursue it for the rest of your life is really not up to date.
A study claims to have found, Link opens in a new window, that members of Generation Z primarily want to become influencers, models or superstars.
Even 30 years ago there were people who wanted to become singers or football stars. Nobody in my environment wants to become an influencer. Rather, the parents are afraid that their children will want that.
Do you feel the pressure to have to be successful professionally? Or to have to «make it»?
I think a lot of young people don't assume that you will get to a point where “it is done”. For example, I don't see a standstill in my work. I also believe that material success that one has accumulated or the status that one has attained becomes less important.
We have to rethink this anyway. Growth in the sense of economic growth must no longer be the goal.
Do you have a professional goal?
I'm studying industrial design at the Zurich University of the Arts. If I go through with my studies without a break, I would have my bachelor's degree at the age of 23. What do I then want to do in my professional life? I dont know. Maybe I am studying something else or doing a master’s degree. I still don't have a clear idea of where I'm going professionally.
Starting a family: a worthwhile goal or an outdated one?
To each his own. I don't think that the classic family model will die out because for many it is simply true. But it's not so important to me to strive for it or to plan it. You don't know whether it will actually happen.
It is important to me to break down stuck patterns.
A reproach that is often loud: Generation Z is self-centered. Is that correct?
With access to the Internet, the desire for self-realization has spread. You can always find allies on the Internet, which means that you are more likely to express your self-fulfillment wishes and pursue them. I guess that's pretty new. But the “Fridays for Future” are proof that we are not a selfish generation at all, but also think of society.
That means: Generation Z wants to have a voice and be included.
This is one of the most important characteristics of our generation. It is extremely important to us to be heard - at school, at work and also in relation to social issues. In everyday working life, too, it makes more sense when learners think along and don't just do what has always been done.
It is also said of Generation Z that they are not rebellious. Why also? Everything is allowed.
Has the youth culture died out with the hipsters? Maybe. It may be that everything is possible today because the generations before us rebelled so strongly and our rebellion is no longer perceived as such. There is something to it. But we are also expected to understand what to expect. But we don't know. That makes us wary.
Mindfulness Nobody practices around me.
Are you going to protest? What are you committed to?
I go with the climate academies and women's strikes. But I didn't have to organize a lot. Going out on the streets is a small effort for me. If many people do it like that, it still has a big impact.
It's also very important to me to make people aware of their sexism. If someone makes a sexist or discriminatory line, I make them aware of it and also challenge them. It is important to me to break down stuck patterns.
The "New York Times" writes, Link opens in a new window, the climate youth is taking to the streets, but is not adjusting their consumer behavior. Is that correct?
The awareness of sustainable consumption is growing in my environment. Of course we buy and we still have more than we need. But I don't know anyone anymore who goes shopping because it's a great activity or you can just afford it.
I have reduced my wardrobe to the essentials and only buy what really needs to be replaced. This awareness is spreading quite a lot.
How important is a healthy lifestyle and mindfulness to you?
A healthy lifestyle is probably indicative of Gen Z. With our generation, the tobacco culture in Western Europe will probably also disappear. But we are the product of a body cult that has lasted much longer and is becoming more visible on social media.
But there is not only a greater awareness of a healthy life, but also a healthier relationship with your own body, no matter what it looks like. And mindfulness? Nobody practices around me.
Gen Zers are the real digital natives. How about your media consumption?
I always carry my smartphone with me. And I have headphones on wherever possible. I think it's too loud for many, that's why we isolate ourselves, with music, for example. Of course, I also have my cell phone with me to stay connected. But that also bothers me sometimes. I switch off the mobile data when I do not want to be available.
Interview conducted by Ana Matijašević.
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