A lot has been said about millennials over the years (those who were born between 1981 and 1996). According to boomers, we're narcissistic and selfie obsessed, and can't afford houses because we spend all our money on avocado toast and pink homewares for our Instagram (and not because of skyrocketing house prices and graduating into a recession).
But now, it seems Gen Z are coming for us too (those born between 1997 and 2012). In a piece published by VICE last week, Gen Z said we only cared about Harry Potter, Buzzfeed quizzes and not killing our plants (what's wrong with caring for succulents 🙁 ?). “They don’t have big ideas because they’re already past their expiry date,” said one 16-year-old. “For me, I’ve got big ideas in big proportions, but for them, small simple things mean everything.” Ouch.
But has anyone wondered what millennials have to say about all this? I'm presuming no one needs to ask millennials what they think of the oil, war and money-loving boomers, but what do they think of Gen Z? We asked a few.
“THERE IS NO OTHER GENERATION I WOULD TRUST WITH THE FUTURE OTHER THAN THESE GUYS”
They're punk ass bitches but they are fully on crud. These lot are the future, both physically and metaphorically. They follow through, unlike us millennials. There is no other generation I would trust with the future other than these guys. So you got to love it and you got to respect them, even though they're punk ass bitches. Honestly they're confident, and so full of hope without the weight of years of life experience which gets you down. Am I right? — Tayo, 30
“WE DRANK AND PARTIED MORE AT THEIR AGE”
I don't think millennials and Gen Z are all that different. I'd say the main difference is that we drank more and partied more at their age, maybe, plus they're probably having less sex because there are other distractions now. A lot of sex we had was because we were bored, drunk teenagers. Our idea of a good time was Glen's and coke and making out. But if you've always had a smartphone, maybe there's less need for IRL interaction.
They're a little more earnest than we are too, I think. They're constantly calling each other out on TikTok or doing front camera monologues and threads about what you should or shouldn't do. I think it's good that they check themselves and each other so much, but they're also quite serious. Millennials and millennial humour is a lot more nihilistic. We're like “I'm depressed lmao” and they're like “How to cure depression: A thread.” — Beth, 27
“GEN Z HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF SEXUALLY INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR”
I believe that the way in which Gen Z utilise social media is far more politicised than it is for millennials. They have grown up in a world in which they are constantly exposed to socio-economic and cultural issues such as climate change and global warming, and what this will mean for their immediate future, the direct impact of economical crisis and numerous social movements such as #MeToo, Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter. While you could argue these were all present during the formative years of a millennial’s life, I don’t think I ever felt as close to a proximity to them as I suspect Gen Z do, most likely due to the rolling news cycle and our consumption of digital media enabled by things such as social media and smartphones.
Last night my boyfriend and I had this discussion specifically in relation to the show I was watching, I May Destroy You. He believes Gen Z have a better understanding of sexually inappropriate behaviour and are more likely to call it out. He hopes this means there will be fewer instances of sexual harassment and assault in the future. — Nancy, 32
“GEN Z SEEM TO BE USING THEIR COLLECTIVE POWERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA TO BRING ABOUT ACTUAL SOCIAL CHANGE”
I think the biggest difference was that Gen Z was the first generation to fully grow up with social media and it's made them, to their credit, way more socially aware of what's going on in the world. Whereas millennials may have been "rebels without a cause" when we first poked around on the internet, Gen Z seem to be using their collective powers on social media to bring about actual social change – or just troll the powers that be into powerlessness. Millennials also came of age, obviously, during a time of economic hopelessness – the world we trained for no longer existed when we were ready to enter it. Gen Z didn't have to have that jarring realization. They're already imagining a new world.
I think the millennial hate might just be your typical youths vs. olds generational thing. But I can probably say as someone who grew up on Harry Potter: Millennials' obsession with those fucking wizards is objectively annoying. LOL. — Stephanie, 29
“THEY'RE LIKE AN EVOLVED POKEMON VERSION OF US”
I love Gen Z. They’re so in-tune with things politically and socially, at a deeper level at a younger age. It might just be based on the specific Gen Zs I know, but there just seems to be a general unflappable quality about them, and their genuine desire for change and progression is worn on their sleeve a lot more.
Overall, they just seem more open-minded and things like sexuality and mental health are more openly spoken about. Meanwhile, millennials definitely have a “lol I'm 30 and I've no idea what I'm doing” kind of vibe, whereas Gen Z have always had the world at their fingertips – most of them would've grown up with iPhones and social media all ready to go. Gen Z are proper children of the internet and there's definitely a very self-made energy coming from them – especially looking at Tik-Tok/YouTuber content and things like that. They're like an evolved Pokémon version of us. The future is in their hands and thank god. — Sophie, 30
“AS MILLENNIALS BEGAN TO BURN OUT ON SCREAMING INTO THE ABYSS, GEN Z BEGAN TO MOBILISE”
I feel like millennials are so desensitised to criticism and blame for everything from the economy to declining birth rates by boomers that any jab from Gen Z is just like “lol kids these days…”
[Gen Z] have provided much-needed sense of hope for a future that was rapidly diminishing as our generation watched this world being destroyed by capitalism. The change for basic human rights, safety and even the very simple need to keep this planet at a temperature that would allow us to survive seemed like common sense [to us], but was met with such aggressive opposition.
As millennials began to burn out on screaming into the abyss, Gen Z began to mobilise, campaign and demand change, essentially doubling our numbers and for once giving millennials a sense that we might actually have a chance to see some sort of justice in our lifetimes.
A revolution was always going to be seemingly impossible. But as Gen Z matures, the possibility of actually shifting global consciousness to one driven by compassion instead of greed isn’t the laughable philosophy it seemed to be even a year ago. — Courtney, 30
“THEY TRULY HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY, AND THE TOOLS TO SAY IT”
I work with Gen Z in a few contexts and as a blunt generalisation, I’ve found them on the whole quite shy, insular and gently polite. The Youth Strike 4 Climate rallies I've attended have been passionate and polarised, but not as bullish and vocal as the anti-fees demos I went to in 2010-2011.
Gen Z are products of the Information Age. They are "digital natives" and have an immeasurably grander vocabulary and are more politically and culturally engaged than my generation in the 00s. At first, Gen Z can appear mild, even passive. But that belies the sharp and shrewd connectivity and curiosity they have with the world. They truly have so much to say, and the tools to say it. It is a privilege to learn from them. Maybe this quietness I’ve encountered is down to age and context. As the generation matures, and society becomes increasingly more dependent on digital technology, the more zoomers will benefit and dictate the terms. — Henry, 31
“THEY'RE SO MUCH MORE CONSCIENTIOUS ABOUT PROTECTING THEMSELVES AND CALLING OUT WHEN SOMETHING ISN'T RIGHT”
I'm amazed and impressed by how good they are at online safety. I joined a Discord that turned out to be mostly teens and they're so careful not to use their real names and they're really vague about where they live, whereas when I was 13 my friends were giving out their landline number on message boards and meeting strangers from MSN.
They're so much more conscientious about protecting themselves and calling out when something isn't right, whether it's someone in their group chat being sexually inappropriate to someone underage or by getting involved in BLM and politics. I remember being apolitical at their age. I also love watching them get into the "edgy" scene fashion and bands I liked as a teen… not so down with them calling me "mum", though. — Rachel, 27
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.