Gen Z, sometimes playfully called iGen, is the generation born between 1997 and 2012 and defined largely by their relationship with technology. Millennials are the generation right before Gen Z, born between 1981 and 1996; to understand the major difference between these generations, an article on Top Employers explained that although “millennials are tech savvy … Gen Z’s are tech native.” This is because Gen Z’s were born into a global culture that was already connected via the worldwide web; as this generation grew up, so did technology. This means that the tech learning curve experienced by older generations were just a part of the developing psyche of Gen Z. 

While often discounted due to their age, Gen Z’s can’t be ignored considering they will make up 10% of legal-aged voters by the time of the 2020 election (they are notably more left leaning than previous generations, by the way). Gen Z’s are more likely to prefer face-to-face communication when compared to millennials, and are more likely to be concerned with personal wealth and job experience than formal higher education (and the accompanying debt). 

They are also more likely to prefer “immediate social platforms,” such as Snapchat, over public or more performative platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Gen Z is the most likely to be okay with using handheld devices in social settings, and also believe 13 years old is an appropriate age to receive their first smartphone (compared to age 18 reported by older generations). Gen Z’s are less likely than millenials to be reachable at all times, mimicking responses from boomers who also prefer face-to-face communication (Gen Xers prefers the phone, while millennials prefer text, email or social media). 

More so than other generations, Gen Z is inextricably linked to smartphones, tablets, and laptops, so it probably comes as no surprise that 42% of Gen Z’s report that social media has a direct impact on how they feel about themselves (compared to 31 percent of Millennials, 23 percent of Generation X, and 20 percent Baby Boomers [Source: RyanJenkins]). In a similar vein, approximately one quarter of Gen Z’s say that Snapchat is “essential for their relationships” since so much of social media is performative and this platform taps into unpublicized authenticity. 

This is not to say that Gen Z is uninterested in such performativity, however. In fact, many Gen Z’s have used social media platforms as a means of launching themselves into relative celebrity. Victor Pineiro, senior vice president of Big Spaceship, explained that “For most of us, celebrity was something that we could not obtain … Gen Z, on the other hand, has grown up with influencers who they see on Snapchat and YouTube and Vine and Instagram. They are reachable. Gen Z uses social networks to achieve influence [or fame].”

When not leveraging social media to their advantage, Gen Z’s love gaming (with approximately two thirds listing it as their main hobby) and consuming streaming media, like Netflix and Hulu, in lieu of traditional media formats such as television or radio. While many analysts are speculating as to what kind of workers Gen Z’s will be, we’ll soon find out as the first of their generation will be graduating from college this spring. This has led businesses to invest in research about how to best reach and attract Gen Z; how to effectively communicate with them; and what special skills or perspectives they’ll bring to the table.