As the new generation of digital natives come of age, we are beginning to learn about what sets them apart from previous generations. Gen Z is defined by people who were born between 1995 and 2014.
For this generation Facebook is ancient, a time without the internet is unimaginable, and social media personas are just as important as real-life personalities. There are a few things that are rumored to be true about Gen Z: they are more conscientious about their carbon footprint and they are very vocal about their struggles with mental health.
From episodic series like Euphoria to Sad Boy Rap, Gen Z doesn’t seem to hold back when it comes to talking about their experiences with mental illness, especially in relation to anxiety and depression.
This begs the question: why Gen Z is so depressed?
Perhaps it’s due to eco-anxiety. Climate change is happening at an alarming rate and Gen Z are hyperaware of the effects it will have in their lifetime and the impacts on the viability of their future.
There is the argument that spending bulk loads of time staring at screens on your mobile devices isn’t exactly good for your psyche either. As a generation who is known for being at the forefront of Instagram, a platform that can make even someone with the sturdiest self-esteem question their validity in comparison to influencers, one can see how social media platforms can create a perpetual cycle of anxiety.
Then, there is the ‘less time on phone, more time outdoors is good’ for humans debate. In 2019, young people are spending less and less time outdoors.
There is also another way to see all of this. One can see Gen Zs as the epitome of adolescent angst rather than the anomaly. Haven’t teenagers and young adults over history always been just a little (or a lot) depressed?
It’s difficult not to be with hormones shifting, changing bodies, and neurons and perceptions evolving. If the regular adult brain isn’t fully formed until the age of 25, are we surprised that a generation of people under 25 are imbalanced?
Years ago, it was widely common for teenagers to take comfort in Sylvia Palth’s dark verses about depression. For a generation whom online communication reigns supreme, perhaps Gen Z is no different that the generation who sought solace in Plath’s work.
The primary difference is the opportunity for Gen Z to express their existential frustrations with the world on public platforms that are visible to all.