Every generation has its defining experience—from the Cold War to September 11, 2001, to Brexit and the Great Recession—these are deeply impactful moments that affect a generation and can create a lasting impact on how they view the world and their future. In a recent interview CGK President Jason Dorsey did with NRK TV—the largest public television network in Norway—he discussed what The Center for Generational Kinetics believes Gen Z’s generational defining moment to be: the Covid-19 Pandemic. Please watch the fascinating interview here. There are so many great perspectives and quotes from members of Gen Z, and Jason got to share some of our new research!
“We believe this is the first global generation-defining moment since World War II.”
At CGK, we believe for an event, experience, breakthrough, or crisis to be considered “generation-defining,” it must meet specific requirements:
- It must take place during the years when children and adolescents are old enough to understand what is happening yet young enough for the event or experience to shape their worldview or beliefs.
- The event itself must create a powerful, emotional memory often connected to feelings of fear, vulnerability, and the unknown. In my speeches, I often refer to this as a “Where were you when?” moment.
When it comes to Covid-19, for children and emerging adults, the experience, painful setbacks, constant reminders of mortality, educational upheaval, workforce setbacks, and personal consequences of this pandemic have been tremendous and profound.
The pandemic has shaped Gen Z’s opportunities to learn, make new friends, start their careers, and even leave their homes. For far too many members of Gen Z, they’ve lost a loved one or friend to the pandemic. There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic will leave a lasting impression that Gen Z will carry with them for decades and likely their entire life. As a father to a daughter who is ten years old, Jason has witnessed firsthand the social and emotional toll this pandemic has had on our youth.
“My daughter, Rya, is ten years old. One of the first things she said when the pandemic started was: ‘I do not want to visit grandma. What if I get her sick and she dies?’”
I’ll never forget Rya saying that to me. At the time, Rya was in third grade. This view of potentially causing a loved one to die simply by visiting them is a heavy burden for any child to bear, even one as young as eight years old. The pandemic will eventually end, but the repercussions of the pandemic on Gen Z will not go away—and many of the long-term effects have yet to be seen or understood. The pandemic will shape the stories Gen Z tells their children and grandchildren, much like the way my grandfather frequently told me stories of the Great Depression.
The COVID-19 pandemic is Gen Z’s generational marker. The social and emotional damage this pandemic has had—and will continue to have—on Gen Z cannot be overstated, and candidly, needs to be talked about much more so that it is a safe and constructive conversation as we all work to help this generation, their families, and communities.
We would encourage you to watch the Norwegian tv news show and the series of interviews that explore the pandemic and its impact on Gen Z. Without question, the pandemic has changed how Gen Z thinks about their future, from education and living arrangements to work and personal finances. The interviews bring a unique perspective given the show is based in Norway.
While Gen Z shares that they often feel overwhelmed by all of the changes and lost opportunities that the pandemic has brought to them, the future is still bright for this inspiring, diverse, socially conscious generation that has navigated an exceptionally difficult time. At CGK, we are excited to continue our studies of Gen Z and watch as they overcome the obstacles this pandemic has put in their path—and the positive impact the generation will have on our world!
If you’d like to learn more about Gen Z and what we’re discovering about this fast-emerging generation in our research, check out CGK’s annual State of Gen Z® study series.
And if you want to dig deeper into the mindset of this influential generation and how to unlock their potential as trendsetters, employees, and customers, check out Jason’s new book, Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business. The book was a Top 10 Book of 2020 on Forbes!