Her list was mostly lighthearted, about subjects like learning about the words in Gen Z vocabulary ("sus," "mid," "felt") and the lore of Alix Earle, but some topics dipped into more serious territory, like Gen Z's slim chances at homeownership and how social media has fractured their relationships.
It got me thinking about how Gen Z's experience is vastly different from that of older generations, even millennials. From growing up with active shooter drills to navigating school in a pandemic and experiencing the effects of climate change in real time, they've arguably grown up in a world of complete unrest that no other generation has experienced before.
And with rising costs, growing debt, and diminishing trust in social safety nets, they are already seeing decreased economic opportunity. They're progressive and digitally native — they've never experienced life before the internet and smartphones. All of these things considered, they have the highest prevalence of mental illness of any generation, according to a survey done by McKinsey & Co.
Given that Gen Z has been living in completely, dare I say, ~unprecedented~ times, I thought it was time to ask members of Gen Z about their experiences themselves. So I asked Gen Z'ers in the BuzzFeed Community to share how they approach life differently from older generations — boomers, Gen X, and even millennials included.
Here's everything they had to say:
1."I don't see special education as a bad thing. I am dyslexic. As a kid, my parents wouldn't let me have in-school reading-intervention services because they were scared of the stigma attached to being a special education student. While they seemed to be trying to do me a social favor by not having me singled out, it made my life so much harder because I didn't have the extra help I needed to learn reading skills."
2."I am much more likely to fight for what I deserve, especially in a workplace. I know I am smart, educated, and worthy of much more than they offer. If they aren’t willing to meet me, they can find less."
3."I know deep down that I’ll never have kids. I’ve started preparing my family for it, just joking that they won’t have grandkids and blowing off comments of, 'Oh, you’ll change your mind.' But it’s legit. We can’t/won’t have kids because of finances, healthcare, childcare, mass shootings, and environmental concerns. My fiancé and I want to have kids so badly, but unless things change, we’ve just had to resign ourselves to the fact that we can’t bring a person into this much mess."
4."I've accepted that I'll never be able to afford a house, so I'm choosing to center my life and my spending on finding meaningful friendships and on life experiences instead."
5."The major difference I'm having to unlearn is all the misogynistic ideas my parents taught me. Like being forced to marry early, have lots of children, be quiet and shy without any strong feelings. I'm a very strong, opinionated woman. I am indeed getting married, but not young, and I won't be having any kids."
6."When I was growing up, my parents never talked about money or finances. Politics and sex were also taboo topics, and because of that, I am becoming an adult and have had to figure it all out on my own. I will be raising my family with no off-limits questions."
7."Investing money in my mental health is the biggest difference I see. I have suffered from depression and anxiety since I was 8. Finally, I found a therapist I really connect with, and I have made great progress. It is $68 per appointment, once a week, even with insurance. My mother, who has seen me in three different psych wards, cannot believe that I am spending 'that kind of money' on therapy."
"This is the same woman who drops about $100–$150 a week going out to eat, is looking at buying another 'fun' car to drive next summer, and lives in a 4,500-square-foot house alone because anything smaller isn't 'nice enough.'"
8."Older people just think everything is going to be okay, but I am well aware that climate change and capitalism are making the Earth worse off. When I say this to older people, they scoff as if the problems of the world will just be reversed magically."
9."I’m not afraid to give up. If something is causing more harm to me mentally than the good it will achieve, I’ll give up. If I am so frustrated I could cry, why am I still trying? I can come back to it, and if that doesn’t work, it’s okay. Someone else can give it a go."
10."I’m a woman and I’m very close to my mother, but the thing I would do differently from what she did is, I would not tolerate bad behavior from men. My mom made one too many excuses for my deadbeat father, and she would tell my sister and me to get over it when my brother hit us. My brother now has a history of domestic violence because he was not taught to keep his hands to himself and control his emotions. I’m learning from these mistakes, and I’ll be sure to teach these lessons to the next generation."
11."I think we've normalized slang, cussing, and informal language a lot more than previous generations."
12."I feel I'm more scared of adulthood than previous generations were. I have no experience with much of anything; nor am I exactly a master at certain skills that I'd need to survive in today's workforce. I have four anxiety disorders and very little people skills. My 'dream job' is fading because of how expensive it would be to get there, with inflation and my mom's wage not being raised to help pay for college."
13."I don’t drink regularly, or smoke at all. I don’t need to drink to have fun or to cope, and I also don’t need to deal with a hangover. I save money, and as long as I get enough sleep, I feel fine the next morning. Alcohol does not equal fun."
14."I'm Gen Z and I’ll never be a teacher. My mom’s a teacher, and I see how she is treated by the administrators, other teachers, parents, and even the kids. What was once a great job for people who love children and want to make a difference in their lives is now nonexistent. They don’t make enough to survive. About four out of five teachers at my mom’s school have a second job, maybe a third during the summer."
15."Older generations really prioritize college, but I feel more of us have started pushing it aside. I think more of us are seeing success with small business and quick ways to make money."
16."As a whole, we're a lot less religious. I think it's because a lot of us have religious trauma and experiences that have caused us to have little to no interest in being associated with organized religion. It also may be the general despair of a world that seems to be headed nowhere good that has led us to feel that religion isn't beneficial."
17."I view internet dating more positively than my parents and grandparents did. It sucks in a lot of ways, but it's also helpful if you're up front about what you want. I'm not a very social person, so I don't really have meet-cutes. Tinder and other apps let me sort through the people I definitely DON'T want, and meet people I otherwise never would have come across."
18."My parents got their shit together a lot earlier than I have. I guess I’m just hopeless about my future and the future of the world in general, so everything seems pointless."
19."As an older Gen Z who's out of college and fresh in the workforce, I am so much better at setting boundaries at work than my parents are. As long as I get my stuff done and treat others kindly and professionally, it shouldn't be a big deal if I come in a few minutes late or take a longer lunch break than the employee manual allows. I do enjoy my work, and I gladly put my best foot forward during the workday, but if I don't have anything to do? I'm out."
20.And finally, "Millennials often try to relate to Gen Z by lumping us into the same group, but we're not the same. Millennials were able to go to college and find stable employment afterward, cultivate early careers, pay off loans, and buy homes. Meanwhile, much of Gen Z's college and early workforce experiences were stripped away from them by the pandemic."
If you're Gen Z, how do you approach life differently from other generations? If you're another generation, how is it different for you? Let me know in the comments below!
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.