2022 was a big year for Gen Z: We witnessed our very first Gen Z congressman, Maxwell Frost, and even prevented a red wave in the midterm elections. 

Nonetheless, Gen Z-ers faced many challenges in 2022 – ranging from economic struggles and social disconnection to climate change anxiety. 

The Pavlovic Today talked to Gen Z-ers to better  understand some of the issues they had to overcome in 2022. 

At last, we are adulting – Gen Z battles Inflation 

In 2022 consumer prices increased by approximately 7%, the highest in four decades, and Gen Z-ers were not immune to this crisis. 

According to a Bank of America survey, one-third of Gen Z consumers had no investments, and nearly half of the generation is under some form of debt, such as student loans and credit cards. 

Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis revealed that about 36% of older Gen Z-ers (20 to 25 years old) have student loan debts compared to 31% of millennials (36 to 41 years old) when they were Gen Z’s age. The average loan debt was also 13% higher for Gen Z, adding up to $20,900.  

Rory Hayes, a recent college graduate from American University, states that she was relieved to have graduated in 2022 since tuition prices increased following the inflation. 

“I wouldn’t have been able to afford it if I had to stay on another year,” adds Hayes

Moreover, 40% of Gen Z-ers stated that they find it difficult to meet day-to-day expenses, including surging rent and home prices, informs the Bank of America survey. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the highest inflation prices have reached since 1981, meaning this is the first time in Gen Z’s lifetime that young people are grappling with costs this high. 

However, in an interview with NPR, Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan, stated that Gen Z is in a much better position compared to older age demographics in relation to the ongoing inflation. 

According to Stevenson, shifting career paths or moving to a field with better opportunities is more accessible to Gen Z in comparison to older generations.  

The iGeneration is also the loneliest 

The same generation which relies so heavily on staying connected via following, liking, texting, is also the loneliest. 

Social disconnection and technology co-dependency were top concerns amongst Gen Z-ers, reveals YPulse’s research. 

Gen Z is experiencing a “loneliness epidemic.” A Cigna study shows that a daunting 79% of people from ages 18 to 24 feel lonely. This classifies Gen Z as the loneliest generation.  

Curiously enough, the same tools which were designed to establish connections between people, are actually key contributors to the loneliness epidemic. 

Dr. Anthony Silard maintains that “being on social media actually isolates us from our real-life networks.” 

A new study revealed that social media usage is negatively correlated with enjoyment derived from real-time in-person conversations. 

“You begin to perceive them, with all of their time-consuming idiosyncrasies, as requiring too much effort,” writes Dr. Silard. 

Indeed, “social battery,” what I have coined as the amount of time I can spend being happily social before I get tired of everyone, is now a valuable resource. 

Yes, I am ashamed to admit that after a dinner with family or friends, I need to step aside and have a few minutes by myself to recollect. As the years go by, I have noticed that my social battery is getting exponentially lower. 

And it isn’t just me. 20-year-old Isabella Gontzos states that she does not have the same amount of social battery as she once had, adding that she feels lonelier now in comparison to 5 years ago. 

“Nowadays I must prioritize where and with whom I invest my social battery,” mentions the student. 

Gen Z struggles with climate change anxiety 

Mainly through social media, Gen Z-ers have been bombarded with an influx of anxiety-inducing news about climate change. 

The Pew Research Center reported that among social media users, nearly seven-in-ten Gen Z-ers expressed feeling anxious about the future the most recent time they engaged with posts addressing climate change. 

Britt Wray, author of Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis, maintains that climate change is deeply impacting young people’s mental health. 

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Wray explained that Gen Z feels “betrayed by government inaction and dismayed when told they are overreacting to what they see as an existential threat.”

In Wray’s survey on climate anxiety in teenagers and young adults from 16 to 25 year-olds, 40% of participants reported being reluctant towards raising children of their own due to fears of the future. 

Not to speak ill of my own kind, but research from the Oliver Wyman Forum shows that, although Gen Z-ers are indeed anxious about the future of our world, many do not turn this fear into action.

“Despite their fears and good intentions, most members of Gen Z don’t take simple actions like minimizing waste, opting for sustainable products or limiting consumption,” writes Ana Kreacic and Simon Cooper from the Oliver Wyman Forum.

This inaction partially stems from the fact that Gen Z-ers do not hold enough financial power to act on their climate change anxiety. 

16-year-old Luca Bertram believes that Gen Z has the least power to effectively address this crisis considering we are under-represented in politics. “The government doesn’t care since they will not be the ones suffering from it in the future,” adds Bertram. 

Nonetheless, the Pew Research Center reported that 32% of Gen Z-ers have contributed to climate change causes in at least one of four ways: Donating money, contacting an elected official, volunteering or attending a rally. 

As a Gen Z-er, I can confidently say that we are a complicated generation. Shedding light on some of the challenges we have struggled with this year spreads awareness and, hopefully, helps Gen Z members feel less lonely in their anxieties about the future. 

NAKED OPINION

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