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Teen author reflects on what it means to be a member of Generation Z

In his recently published book, “We Are Generation Z: How Identity, Attitudes, and Perspectives Are Shaping Our Future,” Vivek Pandit, a senior at Grapevine High School in Grapevine, Texas, explores the issues and opportunities awaiting his peers as they reach adulthood. Here, Vivek shares some of his perspectives with NeXt readers.

By Vivek Pandit / NeXt Contributor

We have all heard about the baby boomers. We have all heard about the millennials. But what about Generation Z? You know, those self-absorbed teens who ignore their parents and look at their phones all the time. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well that is one of the stereotypes I dispel in “We Are Generation Z: How Identity, Attitudes, and Perspectives Are Shaping Our Future.”

So, what defines Generation Z? There is no clear-cut definition, but generations are divided every 15 to 20 years based on changes in technology and global events that have a significant impact on our lives. Gen Z is loosely defined as beginning in the late 1990s, with the invention of touch-screen smartphones, the economic downturn, global terrorism and emphasis on global warming and the environment.

Gen Z’ers, including me, have grown up in a hyperconnected world. Our lives are being influenced by technology in ways that no other generation has experienced. For example, since the invention of cars we have relied on gasoline – yet I see the possibility of never having to drive a gasoline-powered car as an adult.

Older generations often view the exponential growth of technology as having a predominantly negative effect on Gen Z, such as a decrease in face-to-face communication and conflict-resolution skills. Yet the loss of any skills are compensated by gains achieved with the integration of technology, creativity and global collaboration.

For example, we will be able to bring ideas, services and products to the public faster than any previous generation. We will even able to fund our ideas more quickly with online support, such as crowdfunding, in order to make them a reality. In our future, creative, innovative thoughts sparked by teenagers no longer have to be filtered and processed through another generation’s prism in order to garner public feedback or serve the public interest.

With the growing mindset that we can accomplish much more at a young age as compared to previous generations, Gen Z is developing an entrepreneurial mentality. We will leverage the fact that we can have a rapid and powerful impact on world issues without going through traditional institutions. In fact, I believe that in a decade, Gen Z will bring about the proliferation of small businesses that can bring creative solutions to the marketplace much more quickly than in the past.

Although there are many advantages that come with the extensive use of technology, some risks do follow. Take, for example, the digital footprint. To illustrate the power of our digital footprints, my freshman English teacher showed my class a stunning video.

In this video, a man sat inside a tent on a street corner (let us call him the “magician”). He would select a random person picked off the street to enter his tent, which was partially draped in white curtains. The person was asked some fairly simple questions such as name, age, address, family background and interests. After obtaining these answers, the magician would then reveal the stranger’s Social Security number, bank accounts, details of their friendships, the number of children they had, who they were dating, where they had lived and traveled and many other shockingly personal details.

Not surprisingly, the participants were perplexed, amazed and clearly taken aback by this experience. While still reeling from the experience, the magician dropped the surrounding curtains, revealing a stunning setup of thousands of dollars’ worth of computer equipment being used to conduct extensive online research based on the answers provided by the individuals. Simple facts about a person’s life (such as name, address, and occupation) can reveal a wealth of information online and thus reveal a significant portion of one’s identity.

Gen Z recognizes the risks of technology. We see the digital world as an extension of our real worlds, a place to create an extended identity, a place where we want to experiment, be creative and express ourselves fully and unconditionally. But we do not want those words to come back and haunt us years or even moments afterward in the wrong context.

Along with our concerns about leaving a permanent, traceable digital footprint, many Gen Z’ers are concerned about the economy. Having grown up most of our lives witnessing the struggles of millennials, we have watched older siblings experience difficulty finding jobs and having to return home to live. We thus realize that, unlike our parents or grandparents, we may not be working for the same company for years on end, and we certainly don’t expect a pension. We also do not want to spend decades paying off student loans.

These concerns are reflected in the books and movies we like. It is no wonder that apocalyptic storylines featuring young adults, such as the “Hunger Games” series or the “Divergent” series, are popular with us.

But we actually are not pessimistic, nor are we isolationist. Contrary to popular belief, we are not always staring at our phones, and we actually enjoy the company of people. We just interact differently. Most of us have a pretty good relationship with our parents. Especially given the economy, we are accustomed to living with Grandma, Grandpa, older siblings and our parents all in the same household.

We are also very tolerant. We may not agree with everyone’s views, but we accept them. Our attitudes have changed, and we are now more concerned about the motives of governments, corporations and other groups in power than we are of an individual with opposing beliefs. Issues of gender and race are less important to us simply because our perspective is that they should not be issues at all.

With Generation Z now poised to reach adulthood, our impact in the global arena will soon be felt.