Daily

MEET A GEN Z

What it’s like to be a Gen Z today

What do you know about Gen Z? In today’s Cassandra Daily, we present a deep-dive on the personal voices that capture the experience of living in this generation. Who inspires them? What trends are they trying? What’s the best part of being young today? What are the most challenging parts? What do older people misunderstand about their generation? While each of the generational cohorts have key characteristics and cultures, they are also the sum of their individual identities. To mirror their diversity and distinctiveness, Cassandra has developed a proprietary segmentation of the Gen Z cohort. More details about this segmentation are available in our new report, Not Monolithic: Gen Z Segmentation Report, now available exclusively for Cassandra clients.


Cassandra spoke with Sai, a 21-year-old teacher from Washington, who told us about his life and hopes for the future.

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE IN THE WORLD TODAY?

It's pretty chaotic being a young person in the world today. In a very immediate sense, experiencing major life transitions (like graduating high school or college, or starting your first job) during a pandemic is pretty tough. Since these circumstances are unprecedented, it's hard to turn to anyone for support or advice. Also, politically and economically, things don't look super hopeful. Most politicians are super old and far removed from our generation, yet they make the decisions that will impact us for many years to come. It's hard to imagine prospering like this.


Still, thanks to the internet and modern technology, young people are super well connected. It's much easier for people to find community, especially those who are part of marginalized groups. We can also learn about politics, other cultures, and anything, really, more easily than our parents could. A young person today has a relatively broad perspective and an open mind.

WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO BE PART OF YOUR GENERATION TODAY?

I'm fairly proud of my generation. The people around me who are my age are extremely intelligent and capable, and I feel like they are capable of taking strong political and social action if necessary. I also find that when talking to people of my generation, even if it's someone with very different political, religious, or social views, I feel comfortable and respected. I feel accepted by people of my generation more than I do older people.

WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF BEING A GEN Z TODAY?

I think the best part of being Gen Z today is the meme culture. That might seem like a pretty weak thing to say, but with social media being this common thread connecting us, it's like a shared sense of humor. People who barely know each other can bond immediately over a good meme, and memes can also be an accessible way of disseminating one's opinions or views. It's a means of expression that I appreciate, certainly.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING YOUR GENERATION TODAY?

Structural inequality. Things like income inequality, inequitable access to healthcare, etc. have become worse in the United States over time; furthermore, long-standing issues of racial injustice, sexism, etc. still pervade society. We have to enact serious social and political change to make the world a more equitable place, and I think that older generations probably won't be able to remedy these issues (heck, maybe Gen Z won't be able to, either. But the time will come when we have to try).

WHAT POLITICAL, SOCIAL, OR CULTURAL EVENTS HAVE BEEN KEY DEFINING MOMENTS IN YOUR LIFE? HOW HAVE THEY IMPACTED YOUR LIFE?

I think that school shootings (Sandy Hook in particular) were quite defining for me. I lived not very far from where the Sandy Hook shooting occurred, and there were teachers at my school who lived in that area, [and] who knew people [who were] affected. At that moment, it felt like--this is real. This is a real danger. After all that, our school got a nice new security guard, and we did a few shooter drills, but the lasting effect was the way that gun violence became a concern of mine for the first time.


The pandemic has also been a defining moment. I mean, this is totally unprecedented, and it has majorly affected my education and my work. I can't really say at this point how my life would have been different if not for the pandemic, but I know that I'll never forget these times. The uncertainty, the fear, the isolation—but also the process of finding ways to stay close to friends and family even while physically separated, the rediscovery of hobbies, [and] the time spent reflecting. It's been a very mixed experience.

WHAT STEREOTYPES OR MISCONCEPTIONS DO OLDER PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT YOUR GENERATION? HOW DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL?

I think that older people see our generation as somehow soft, [or] overly politically correct. Yes, we're more aware of the issues affecting marginalized communities, and speaking up for these issues when someone uses a slur or makes some sort of offensive comment just means that we've progressed as a society. Our efforts to respect other people and their experiences isn't out of an obsession with pronouns or safe spaces. It annoys me—the people who make these sorts of comments usually wield quite a bit of privilege but don't realize or acknowledge it.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR GENERATION MAKES YOU FEEL PROUD?

I'm proud of how resilient my generation is. We've experienced a lot of volatility in our relatively short lives, but we've still managed to grow into fairly capable, kind, intelligent people in spite of it all.