The decade leading up to 2020 had witnessed mounting levels of volatility in the world. Politics change on a dime. There are more calls to save the environment. And spreading awareness of crucial issues like race, gender equality and global policies are moulding the information we receive today.
Zooming through (sorry, I couldn’t resist) the storm of information are the Zoomers, the generation of youths that are not waiting to change the future – they are already changing society today.
But what powers do they have to change society? What change are they already bringing? If they are the main players of the decade, it’s time we start understanding what they can bring to society in the coming years.
The Age of Zoomers
Zoomers (also known as Gen-Z) are youths born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Think of a primary school kid and a university undergrad, and you’ve successfully pictured them. They are the hashtaggers of #vscogirl, #andioop, #brownsugarmilktea, and they are the PhDs of technology at a startlingly young age. From memes to global news, financial to scientific information, they have all kinds of information at the tips of their fingers.
And it is their mastery of information that fuels the increasing number of young faces on social campaign frontlines. Greta Thunberg is currently one of the leading faces of the climate movement despite only being fifteen years old when she started to protest outside the Swedish parliament. Her impact has since spread to the far corners of social media, and thousands of youth mobilised across the world to protest for the same cause.
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The survivors of a school shooting in Florida in the US used their social media platforms to create the #neveragain movement that was plastered on media everywhere in the world. A speech by one of the faces of the campaign, Emma Gonzalez, even made it on the evening news in Mediacorp channels, when Singaporeans are not in the least connected to shooting cases like these. And that’s the amazing thing - their voices are so powerful as to reach others across the globe.
For Good or For Naught?
Given these cases, Zoomers have proven their potent social impact beyond the memes and trends. Thanks to the spreading awareness of other social concerns like gender equality, race and #lovemyself, Zoomers are exposed to a world that empowers individuals to respect themselves and others.
But just as technology and easy access to information empowers their voices for change, these are also the very things that could cripple the Zoomers’ power.
A five-minute scroll on Twitter or the Instagram discover page could already feed twenty different pieces of information. But these are also platforms for devious information, like ‘fake news’ and extreme opinions.
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On the day I was writing this, I scrolled through Instagram when I saw posts warning people about the spread of ‘fake news’ about an Iranian attack on Iraqi airbases. Imagine the amount of protests if there weren’t people actively trying to debunk it. And yet the damage is done. If there are crowds of news channels constantly debunking and asserting both sides of any story, how are we ever going to believe anything, even the news?
And there are already signs that Zoomers may be leaning towards that edge. ‘Controversy’ and ‘scandal’ are popular terms that capture the attention of the youth, ranging from the ‘tea’ of influencers to serious accusations against government policies.
While some points are valid for debate, it also shows the growing scepticism people have towards the ‘official’ narrative that may breed unhealthy grounds to ‘address the issue’. Increasingly, people are practicing ‘social justice’, the concept of fairness in society that is misused more often to justify criminal methods that assert justice without the aid of authorities.
If the Zoomers continue to be and breed this environment of scepticism, it could negatively affect their view of society and the future. As much as there are possibilities of good change, there is no telling of adverse change that may wreck society too.
The Need For A Neutral Space
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Zoomers are wielders of an immense archive of information and technology, but the outcomes of their social impact seem to swing in extreme ways. Being constantly bombarded by information, they are left with little space to process them calmly and discern the truth behind them.
And that’s where other generations need to come in. Zoomers need a neutral space to take a step back and process everything happening in their lives. And what better than having role models, people they look up to or feel at ease with, to create that space and work things out together with them. It is the space where they can explore different ideas, learn and discern, and ultimately create new solutions that have the potential to change society for the better.
Zoomers may be the main players of the decade, and there’s no telling how the future may go. But rather than pinning everything on them, there is also a role to play for older generations to support their endeavours with the right intentions. And just like the generations before, the baton will be passed on to the Zoomers to guide the generation after.
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