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Gen Z Will be Boring. Here's Why.

They’re going to be boring, in that they're going to be very similar to millennials

Gen Z Will be Boring. Here's Why.

Posted Friday September 23rd, 2016 by in Analysis + Strategy.

Study after study has been done in which the findings are relatively the same: Despite much hype and many sentiments to the contrary, millennials are very similar to generations that came before. So, why is it that so many authors, speakers and “experts” on the subject of millennials are making a career out of singling out millennials as the most divergent group in the history of humanity?

My answer: It’s far more sensational (and lucrative) to proclaim “the end is near” from a soapbox, than to sit back, yawn a few times, and agree that millennials aren’t so different from the rest of us.

That said, here’s what IS different about this particular period in recent history: Consumer choice driven by the internet. This combination of knowledge and choice, I would argue, does create a dividing line in human behavior. However, the Internet marks a change not in generational behavior, but in every generation’s consumer behavior. Before, without knowledge, consumers had little power. Now, with incredible knowledge, consumers have all the power. This seismic shift has led to industry turbulence, political upheavals, and behavioral changes in the way we communicate. Not just for millennials. For everyone.

So, imagine my surprise when I was made aware that a former “expert” on millennials had transitioned into an “expert” on Gen Z – the generation that comes next, of which the leading edge is currently 22-years-old. The headline went something like, “You won’t believe the surprising changes that are coming with Generation Z!” If there had been a flourish of trumpets and the squeal of a trained elephant, I think the picture would have been much more complete. Instead, the audience ooh’d and aah’d over the mystical transformations of today’s up-and-coming youth, while my eyebrows started to hurt from intense furrowing.

I’m going to go on record here about Generation Z: They’re going to be boring, in that they're going to be very similar to millennials. Here’s why:

Millennials were subject to a significant shift in human communication, called the Internet. They lived through a before-and-after in regards to the age of the consumer. They led the way for behavioral change that is now widespread across every generation (think choosing organic, shopping online, reducing carbon footprints, and so on - these aren't millennial traits,they're societal traits that millennials happened to grow up with).

On the contrary,

Generation Z has had no such significant shift occur during its upbringing. Gen Z uses technology and social media just like the rest of us. They might take their smartphones for granted more than the rest of us oldies-but-goodies, but we’re now all firmly on the other side of the Internet divide.

Before we declare Gen Z completely unremarkable, I'm reminded of a conversation I had recently with a fellow millennial, Inc. columnist and friend, Nicolas Cole. In talking about millennials, he agreed that millennials are unique in that they straddle the Internet divide. "But," he argues, "what's interesting is that Gen Z will provide context for millennials and their typical 'attributes.' For instance, we millennials get judged for being too impatient, or not being hard workers, or having our 'heads in the clouds,' or being entitled. Honestly, I think Gen Z, having grown up with pretty much every tech privilege will be all those things and more. Gen Z will be a good (or, 'better') barometer for us to gauge traits of millennials, because before we were only comparing millennials to previous, older generations—generations without the tech resources we have. It was a one-sided comparison. Now, we're going to have another tech generation to compare with. And I think that will allow us to more accurately reflect and discuss the millennial generation as to how it relates to not just Baby Boomers, for example, but Boomers on the one hand and Gen Z on the other."

So, there you have it. Generation Z: The Barometer for Millennials and the Future of Human Behavior Post-Internet. In any case, we agree that not much will change until the next great disruption. Ultimately, there's only one question we really need to ask ourselves when it comes to Gen Z: Will the generation after start over at letter A? That debate sounds much more interesting to me.


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