Silent Z

October 8, 2015 | By Tim Manners

Generation Z profiles a lot like the Silent Generation, reports Alex Williams inThe New York Times (9/20/15). At first glance, Generation Z — generally defined those born between 1996 and 2011 (somehow a generation is now less than 20 years) — would seem similar to Millennials, at least in terms of their digital habits. In fact, their formative experiences are quite different. Where Millennials knew a world before 9/11, The Great Recession and social media, Gen Z did not. “I know people who have made their closest relationships from Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook,” says Emily Citarella, 16. “We are the first true digital natives,” says Hannah Payne, 18.

However, Gen Z may take a different view of how they use digital media. “As far as privacy, they are aware of their personal brand, and have seen older Gen Yers screw up by posting too openly,” says Dan Gould, a trend consultant. Multiculturalism may also be viewed differently: “For today’s 14-year-olds, the nation’s first African-American president is less a historic breakthrough than a fact of life.” Their parents — largely Gen Xers — are another formative factor. Gen Xers grew up “when horizons seemed limited,” an experience they share with their children and that can manifest itself in a strong desire for “safety.” This may apply both to their personal behavior as well as their career choices.

Research shows that Gen Zers may be less inclined to drink alcohol and more likely to pursue more pragmatic careers. Their sense of caution echoes that of their grandparents — or great-grandparents — the so-called Silent Generation “of the late 1920s through the early ’40s.” “They got married early, had kids early,” says economist Neil Howe. “Their first question in job interviews was about pension plans.” Yet, Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley and Andy Warhol were all of the Silent Generation. Kids today have also seen Mark Zuckerberg and others hit it big through entrepreneurism. The Silent Generation was “not just the most career-focused generation in history. It was also … the richest.”

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