Generation Z is a new generation that we are still getting to know, especially in the workplace. According to Purdue Global, as seen in the infographic below, Gen Z is more tech-oriented and independent than ever.
Outside of the workplace, Gen Zers are starting conversation – specifically through social media and activism. Recently, Gen Zers pulled a pretty big prank on Trump. As some may have heard, Trump’s rally in Oklahoma June 20, 2020 caused quite a scandal. First, many criticized holding a rally at all – let alone indoors – as COVID-19 continued to increase across the country. Trump’s team boasted about the rally being ´sold out´and how they would hold a pre-rally outside the arena to accommodate the crowd. Instead, to everyone’s surprise, the arena was left nearly empty – only occupying 6,200 seats out of the arena´s 19,000 capacity. Turns out Gen Zers took to Tik Tok, a new social media app widely associated with dance routines and memes, to trick the president. Gen Zers campaigned, smirking in their videos where they RSVPed for the rally, when they had no intention of going at all.
While this prank gained national news attention, it wasn´t the first time Tik Tok was used for progressive activism. Many K-pop fans (Korean pop) flooded the app with Black Lives Matter resources and news. The famous K-pop band, BTS, raised $1 million dollars for the BLM movement and, within 24 hours, their fans had matched that donation thanks to another successful Tik Tok viral campaign.
Why Tik Tok, you might ask? Well, according to Irregular Labs Survey – a study done across 7 countries with a sample of women and non-binary Gen Zers, 75% find that being politically and socially engaged is vital to their identity. Additionally, 63% said they are primarily informed about said issues through social media channels. So, beyond activism and social awareness being a key element to youth identity, that awareness begins and is further molded through social media. While technology has its pros and cons, for this generation it is a lifeline to community, information and self-expression like never before.
As Vanessa Pappas, Tik Tok´s general manager said to CNN, ¨TikTok is an outlet for users to express themselves,” she said. “This expression is often joyful, but our community is going through a time of particularly deep anguish and outrage, and much of the content on the app this week clearly reflects those experiences.”
Tik Tok is not perfect: their algorithm inadvertently influenced whose content was more likely to be seen based on vulnerability to cyberbullying, consequently burying content made by queer, fat and/or differently-abled users. Representatives since say that this issue has been addressed. However, racist videos and ´challenges´ populate the platform. Yet, it seems Gen Zers are becoming more intentional, supporting or pushing progressive campaigns and information to go viral in order to overpower the racist or discriminatory minority that posts offensive videos. Off-line, these campaigns have had effects, too with Tik Tok-ers flooding police tip lines demanding footage of looting and other illegal activities in order to take up space, disempowering those who may be calling with harmful intentions to activists on the ground during the George Floyd protests.
So, are Gen Zers coming to save us through ingenious Tik Tok video campaigns and intersectional advocacy? Well…
According to a writer at the NYTimes, there’s something more complicated to Gen Zers than being those who will save the planet and right all the wrongs of previous generations,¨The kids are fed up. More specifically, Generation Z is disillusioned by a country and its myriad institutions whose moral arc seems to bend toward corruption and stagnation. It is also, like any generation, not monolithic. And the way that its justified disillusion will play politically, culturally and socially is unknown.¨
They are definitely the ones to have an eye out for, but how these factors of social media, disillusionment and alienation are unknown. But if the first few years of their teens and adulthood are any indication – i.e. youth climate strikes and the Parkland kids – it will be exciting to see how they come into their own.
Allaire, Christian. “How TikTok Went From Dance Videos to Meaningful Activism.” Vogue, Vogue, 22 June 2020, www.vogue.com/article/tiktok-activism-president-trump-rally.
Eden King, Lisa Finkelstein. “Just How Different Are Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers at Work?” Harvard Business Review, 2 Aug. 2019, hbr.org/2019/08/generational-differences-at-work-are-small-thinking-theyre-big-affects-our-behavior.
“Generational Differences in the Workplace [Infographic].” Purdue Global, www.purdueglobal.edu/education-partnerships/generational-workforce-differences-infographic/.
MacColl, Margaux. “Statistics On Gen Z & Activism Show They Want To Get Involved, They Just Need To Know How.” Bustle, Bustle, 2 May 2019, www.bustle.com/p/statistics-on-gen-z-activism-show-they-want-to-get-involved-they-just-need-to-know-how-17179280.
Provenzano, Brianna. “How TikTok & K-Pop Fans Made Trump’s Tulsa Rally Go From ‘Huge!” To ‘Sad!”.” How TikTok & K-Pop Fans Ruined Trump Tulsa Rally, www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/06/9875593/trump-tulsa-rally-empty-tiktok-kpop-tickets.
Warzel, Charlie. “Gen Z Will Not Save Us.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 June 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/opinion/trump-protest-gen-z.html.