For anyone not familiar with this particular generation, Gen Z refers to anyone born between 1997 and 2012.
As of 2023, many Gen Zs are becoming teenagers—some are already in their early twenties. As someone of this generation, I’m puzzled as to why many older people seem to be so prejudiced and wary of the ‘young ‘uns of today’ (as my extremely northern grandparents would describe us).
This distrust appears to stem from the behaviour of a few rowdy outliers (they seem to forget that they’d have had rebels in their own generations). Another huge reason behind the flak Gen Zs receive comes from their adoption of social media.
I can confidently say that not all people between the age of 9 and 24 are horrid, juvenile delinquents! However, for a few reasons, my generation, in comparison to older ones, admittedly has fewer social skills. Physical, face-to-face interactions can feel alien and unnatural to many young people today.
Do I mean that every single person in this age range is unable to communicate in a real world scenario? No, not at all. But there is a significant number of young people who lack social understanding and communication skills to such an extent that they come across as ignorant, uncooperative people with whom it’s difficult to engage.
Unfortunately, such issues can quickly become stereotypes. Before long, the whole generation becomes tarred with the same brush, and every single young person is branded ‘uncooperative’ or ‘socially awkward’. On occasion, this can be completely true. Gen Z’s lack of social skills can lead to confrontation between parents and teenagers, or young workers and managers, which can result in an immense distrust in the social capabilities of the whole generation. Unfortunately, for myself and my peers who can socialise in the traditional way, i.e. face-to-face, we often face surprise and sometimes disbelief—as many older people do not expect any form of conversation from people my age.
Gen Z’s perceived lack of social skills, in my opinion, is synonymous with the rise in popularity of social media. So many of us were born into a world where physical experiences and digital platforms were two very different things; the latter seemingly less scary. This, coupled with being unable to mix during Covid, formed a slippery slope. Instead of creating social bonds in schools, face-to-face, conversations and friendships moved online—with platforms such as WhatsApp, and later SnapChat, effectively murdering the concept of physical relationships. Kids and teenagers poured their energies into learning how to digitally message each other in such a way that they avoided social rejection or being branded ‘uncool’. In-person interaction became less important or unnecessary.
More and more of Gen Z’s social interaction became digitalised during lockdowns. And it’s only in recent years, as the generation entered the workplace, that it became clear how necessary in-person social skills are, and how far behind some young people are in this regard.
That said, in reality, Gen Z is just as sociable as any other generation. After all, it’s our basic human instinct to be social. The problems begin when this socialising is not just carried out but wholly contained within online platforms instead of in the real world.
So, what’s the answer?
If you want to engage an ‘unsocial’ Gen Z, try not to instantly bring them down for their lack of social skills. Instead, work with them, help them to understand the basic principles of communication. Teach them how to effectively listen to others and the art of reading social situations. Help them form friendships and interests offline.
I reiterate, Gen Z can communicate. They just need to be encouraged to do so.
Written by an anonymous Gen Z.