Let’s listen more and criticise less

As the first digitally native generation, Gen Z educate themselves and are not afraid to speak up, writes Imagen Insights' Sinead Lambe

Questioning a particular generation’s values, habits and ethics is nothing new, having been used as a tool for informing successful marketing strategies for a long time.

While boomers will have exhibited certain traits repackaged by brands to help sell products to them, Millennials quickly became known as the burnout generation and right now Gen Z is the buzz demographic on every marketer’s lips. But just what values does this generation hold that makes them unique to those that have preceded them?

Aged roughly between 7 and 27, Gen Z are the first digitally native generation, meaning they have grown up in a world with access to a plethora of information, and misinformation, at their fingertips. Does this bring with it a potential air of entitlement — some would argue yes, but I would argue no. With negative headlines relating to topics such as ‘quiet quitting’, ‘the lazy generation’, and ‘cancel culture’ dominating our press in relation to Gen Z, it is no wonder that they have become a talking point somewhat controversially.

Many would say wisdom comes with age but I would argue wisdom comes with lived experience and knowledge. If anything, Gen Z is an informed demographic and although they might be young, they are potentially more open to newer ways of thinking than any generation that has come before them. They have wider access to world news via social media, and they are far less sheltered from the realities of living than previous demographics. They have already lived through a global pandemic and a mental health crisis and maturity has been almost thrust upon them. If you cannot agree with the word maturity in this sense, perhaps ‘understanding’ is better-fitting.

An activist generation, and rightly so…

Gen Z are not afraid to fight for LGBTQIA+ rights, they want to talk about climate change and they are keen to ensure their mental health is protected — ultimately they are vocal about causes that matter to them. They will hold your brand accountable and they will question practices that do not align with their values. They want to see diversity in your ad campaigns and they will demand to understand what your business is doing to support more marginalised groups in society. But instead of labelling them entitled, I would say all of this comes from a place of wanting to elicit positive change, of craving inclusivity and of respecting others.

Somehow their outspokenness has led to many negative headlines, but I would urge society to listen more and to criticise less.

For aeons we’ve said “with age comes wisdom,” but I would argue that perhaps with age comes a more stagnant way of thinking, a reluctance to have our own views thrown into question, a want to not leave our own echo chamber. For me, the benefits to having a new generation unafraid to question the status quo greatly outweighs the cons. Listening to those we would have previously discounted as just ‘young’ will help us to continue to learn, and to shape society and culture in the positive ways needed to move forward.

We should embrace alternative ways of thinking and not run from them. If Gen Z are willing to educate themselves on topics important to them and are confident enough to voice them, society should be brave enough to listen – especially when at times what they will have to say, will not be easy to hear.

Featured image: Mike Von / Unsplash

Sinead Lambe, Associate Director for Communications, Imagen Insights

Sinead is Associate Director for Communications at Imagen Insights. Building her career in consumer PR working for leading agencies on a broad spectrum of clients in the FMCG space, Sinead then moved in-house at Imagen Insights to lead their communications strategy. Sinead is passionate about providing young people with opportunities to shape their futures, both within and outside of Imagen Insights, and also volunteers with the Young Women’s Trust on their WorkItOut CV feedback service.

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