“Yaaasssss, go off king,” followed by a series of crown, fire and muscle emojis.
This was one of the comments I received after posting a shirtless photo on Instagram for the first time in 2020.
As we were indefinitely confined to our homes at the beginning of the pandemic, many took to pursuing their long-forgotten fitness goals — myself included, and I chronicled my fitness journey on my social media pages. The inimitably robust and wholesome support and encouragement I received from my friends in college were characteristic of “Generation Z,” those who’ve fostered a culture in which friends unwaveringly cheer each other on, precluding envy, judgment and toxicity, that which I can’t exactly expect from my own peers.
Generation Z is loosely categorized as having been born between 1997 and 2012, whereas myself at age 27 would technically be a “millennial,” or more specifically a “zillennial.” There is certainly overlap between the cultural zeitgeists between our two generations, but if I were to choose to belong to either one, it would unquestionably be Generation Z.
This to me seems somewhat intuitive because aside from currently bearing the baton of civilizational progress, Gen Zers are the products of what my generation had to learn. They can almost be compared to a younger sibling of millennials — smarter, wiser, more refined and competent in having improved what worked and discarding what didn’t, all while maintaining unapologetic originality.
Belonging to an age in which technology has made it conducive to knowing anything and everything locally and globally, I find Gen Zers are much more self-aware. This manifests in mild, but healthy nihilism due to recognizing the profound systemic issues like unsustainable capitalism, apocalyptic climate change, broken justice systems and seemingly irremediable inequalities across the world. However, that is beautifully balanced by a passionate propensity to want to rectify those injustices.
With regards to mental and emotional health, the cultural atmosphere is so open and encouraging of discussing these real grievances that we all experience as humans. Growing up in the early 2000s, words like “anxiety” and “depression” were relatively unutterable words and the concept of therapy was stigmatized.
Gen Zers are far less tolerant of intolerance and have understood what it takes to cultivate a truly just, pluralistic society. They’re more in touch with their sexual identities, and wearier of sexualization. They understand that this thing called civilization is not an easy project, but still remember to not take themselves too seriously and to remember to enjoy the little things. I’ve had the immense pleasure of befriending Gen Zers during my time at UC Berkeley, and on the whole, I have become more empathetic, expressive, introspective, artistic, more woke and less judgmental.
Like many older siblings, I sometimes think that you guys are too cool for me to hang out with. Please forgive my clunky attempts at adopting your playful idiosyncrasies and unique vernacular; deadass, I do it out of affection. So no cap, y’all are goated.
Now go off, kings and queens, and save the world!