As I sit here writing in a beautiful sun soaked Sydney café, I notice all the people enjoying their morning coffee. Some sit together in pairs or groups, laughing and talking about many things. Some enjoy their time on their own. Many of them are on their phones. Scrolling.
If we had only a few minutes to spare whilst waiting for a friend to arrive,
how many of us would reach for our phones?
We have created a society where we fill not only the big blocks of our life with technology but also the smaller spaces. The insignificant moments of a single minute or two. We may look at our phone whilst waiting for the lift to come to our floor, or for the bus to arrive, or for a friend to return from the bathroom. We have learnt to fill every spare minute and over stimulate every other minute.
It can seem that everything is vying for our attention. Yet at the same time, we are constantly in a state of being switched on, and we can find it difficult to disconnect ourselves from technology and decide to switch off.
The art of sitting on a park bench, and doing nothing. Has become just that, an art.
As a society, we have learnt to avoid boredom at all costs.
We can reflect on previous generations and see how different our instantaneous and technologically stimulated world is today, but the need to avoid boredom is so common in their generation that it rationalises their approach to social media.
“I use social media several times a day… in between lectures…
every spare second of my life.” Sarah (b.1997)
“Older generations often miss the nuances of social pressure, and the sense of being constantly switched on from a young age, that is being created through the constancy of social media in the lives of Gen Z.”
The social pressures of fitting in with your peers, of affirmation and identity, are all tied into the online platform of social media, as well as the normal social networks at school, sporting clubs and friendship circles that every generation would recognise.
The key difference between generations past and the young Gen Z of today, is that social circles of past generations would have a more defined boundary of stepping into and out of social engagements, having a clear switching off experience when they returned home for the day.
For young people today, there is simply no switching off experience. Online social platforms have bridged the boundary of physical connection, and has saturated every minute of time, as it is active 24/7, creating a new social state of being wired.
Young people in Generation Z (born 1995-2009) have been immersed in technology from their earliest years. With the introduction of the world wide web (which became publicly available and widely used in the early 1990s), a new dynamic was introduced to society: instantaneous stimulation and technology. Adults and children alike have since been surrounded by screens, email notifications, visual messaging, entertainment, push notifications, texts, social media likes and more, in an ever increasing constant state of being switched on, socially connected and wired.
This dynamic always being socially connected, has created an addiction to constantly feeling wired.
In the constant attempt to avoid boredom, we have lost the moments of quiet time that naturally allow space for self-reflection, processing emotions and visualising new and creative ideas that a state of rest and reflection facilitate.
Wellbeing in a wired world:
Our young people are being raised in a society that we ourselves are only getting used to. Wellness for Gen Z is about their sense of how they feel about life as a whole. Here are some tips to help Gen Z manage the social pressures of this tech driven generation:
Enjoy tech free time together:
Gen Z’s can long for the simple social life of older generations. Some tips if you’re feeling wired:
- Spend time outside without a device in hand (Try going for a walk and tune into sounds in nature like the birds instead of listening to music)
- Have a ‘device free zone’ during mealtimes with family and friends
- Explore new places with each other
- Avoid ‘technoference’ interrupting conversations with people – when the phone flashes or beeps but you are with someone, give the person your attention not the device
- Wind down for bed by having a time away from your device.
Allow space for self-reflection, to re-centre and process emotions, amidst the rush of life.
If you have a Gen Z in your family:
Understand that Gen Z’s social life IS on social media.
It might be helpful to realise that if they disconnect from social media, they may feel excluded from their social networks and peers.
- Listen to their social pressures and what is important to them
- Understand that online connection is genuine connection
- Set clear boundaries as a family around device use (how and when to switch off).
Extracts taken from HELLO GEN Z: ENGAGING THE GENERATION OF POST MILLENNIALS
Hello Gen Z
Hello Gen Z is the new book from Claire Madden, Australia’s foremost social researcher on generational engagement.
With a foreword by Bernard Salt, this book will help organisations, educators, leaders and parents understand what has shaped this extraordinary group of young people. Order a copy of the book here. Bulk order discounts are also available.
About Claire Madden
Claire Madden (www.clairemadden.com) is a social researcher, keynote speaker and media commentator interpreting social trends and implications of generational change. As a keynote speaker, Claire is highly regarded for her dynamic and engaging presentations where she translates robust, research-based content into strategic applications for educators, managers and business leaders.
To invite Claire to speak at your next event, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +61 2 8091 4321.