The Laziest Generation?

Gen Z is often seen as lazy by older generations. But where did this reputation come from?

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Ian Hurley

Gen Z is living in a time of constant change, and yet earned the reputation of lazy.

A student wakes up at 5:30 a.m.  They scarf down breakfast as quickly as they can before catching the bus. They go through six hours of classes before running out to a sports practice.  They head home after an hour to take a fifteen-minute break before going to their part-time job. After that, they complete four hours of homework.  When they finish at midnight, they scroll through Tik Tok for an hour before passing out to do it all again in the morning.  With all of this, how on earth did Gen Z get the reputation as the laziest generation?

Many members of older generations have deemed Gen Z as lazy, apathetic, and internet-addicted. How Gen Z got this reputation is a puzzle, considering everything that has happened in their lifetimes.  Gen Z’s declining mental health and access to the internet may be contributing factors. 

Older generations tend to think that members of Gen Z are apathetic and don’t care about world events. The simple fact is, Gen Z has grown up in a time of political and social turmoil.  Many Gen Z-ers were born after 9/11, and the heightened ultra-nationalism that followed.  Due to this, they were raised in an era where it was constantly harped upon that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world.  Gen Z has seen many civil rights movements, including the rise of LGBTQ+ acceptance and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

I’m truly awed at how much passion and energy Gen Z is bringing to the really important issues of our time”

Due to Gen Z’s immediate access to the internet, they are constantly aware of everything happening around the world. Many of them have been desensitized to these awful things since they constantly see them, which reads to older generations as a lack of feeling or empathy.  They are constantly trying to find the balance between “I want to stay up to date on current events” and “I need to stop reading about these awful things or my head will explode”. 

Gen Z can be seen as lazy or unfeeling due to their tendency to not tell older people things they are happy about.  Most teenagers can relate to the experience of telling an adult something they did that they are proud of and being shut down.  Most teenagers can remember telling someone “I’m really happy with the score I got on this test!” and being told, “You should’ve done better”.  This type of dismissive attitude causes many Gen Z members to turn to the internet and social media platforms to express themselves, rather than doing so to adults in real life, leading to Gen Z’s perceived internet addiction. 

We have seen a great decline in Gen Z’s mental health over the years. Gen Z has faced many challenges in our changing world that generations before us didn’t have to consider. Baby Boomers and Gen X were raised in a world where as long as you worked hard enough, you could achieve anything.  For younger generations, that is not the case.  So much of what affects their future is out of their control.  

For example, the cost of college tuition has skyrocketed over the years.  In the 1970s, a college education would cost a few thousand dollars.  These days, getting a higher education can run well upwards of 100 thousand dollars, and the pressure of figuring out how to pay for this is immense. On top of that, older people will tell teenagers that “you don’t need to go to college to get a good job.”  However true that might’ve been when they were applying for jobs, these days, most good jobs have a baseline requirement of a bachelor’s degree. As if that wasn’t enough, the cost of living has risen enormously over the last few decades, and wages have stayed more or less the same.  All of this is a ridiculous amount of pressure for a high schooler to have to consider, on top of all the work they’re doing in the present. 

The world has changed an incredible amount in Gen Z’s lifetime.  In their lives, they’ve already seen the election of the United States’ first black president, the legalization of gay marriage, a rise in mass and school shootings, a global pandemic, an international climate crisis, the rise of high-speed internet,  and a historic Black Lives Matter movement.  Regardless of anyone’s stance on these events, this is a lot to process in such a short amount of time, especially for a teenager.

 Due to all these events, Gen Z has become desensitized to terrible things happening.  Also, thanks to living their entire lives in the age of information, it is easier than ever to spot and call out misinformation. Gen Z, due to this availability of information, tends to be less trusting of the government(see #4) than older generations.  This has also lead Gen Z to become more independent, which can mainly be seen through much of Gen Z’s desire to start their own businesses. Gen Z will be/is the most educated generation in history.  Overall, Gen Z’s access to a wealth of information thanks to easy internet access has both positively and negatively affected our lives.

The Gen Z kids I know are very well informed and already making plans on how to make the world a better place”

To try and understand further the differences between different generations, members of three different generations were asked different questions about Gen Z.  The people interviewed were Amy Yang, a member of Gen Z and a sophomore at NAI, Tara Stoufflet, a member of Gen X, and Marlene Yoest, a baby boomer. 

In general, all three said they did not think Gen Z is lazy, but are in fact hard-working and have done a lot to try and change the world we live in.  Sophomore Amy Yang thinks Gen Z might be perceived as lazy due to “so many more ‘distractions’ compared to older generations because of social media and new technology. 

Gen Z’s supposed “addiction” to their cell phones is another thing that leads to this lazy reputation.  When asked about this, Yang said “…No, because most of us Gen Z kids are trying to work hard in school and don’t have time for phones.”  In response to the same question, Yoest said “I understand that phones help to stay connected… but I’m really concerned about how addicting the attachment to the phone is.”  Stoufflet also said “I wish Gen Z would spend more time reading and in conversation.  Gen Z is using the internet to educate themselves and to be active in their world, but the most valuable insight into the world is talking to others.”

A lot of people think it will be harder for Gen Z to plan their futures. Yang says “Back then there weren’t so many opportunities…now there are so many that sometimes it gets overwhelming.”  It is known that education was very different than it is now than when baby boomers were planning their futures. When asked, Yoest said “Because the world is changing on so many fronts, yes, I do think it is harder now. When I look at programs of study that most collages offer, the task of making a choice seems overwhelming.”

For the final question, all three were asked if they think Gen Z has changed the world, and if so in a positive or a negative way.  Yang said, “Gen Z has made an impact, I would say in a positive way.”  Yoest agreed, saying, “Most definitely and quite positively…I’m truly awed at how much passion and energy Gen Z is bringing to the really important issues of our time.”  Stoufflet also agreed in her statement, in which she said, “The Gen Z kids I know are very well informed and already making plans on how to make the world a better place through social justice, climate justice, etc.”

Gen Z has gone through a lot of change in their lives, and the oldest of them are only in their early twenties.  The world will continue to evolve around them, and they will be more aware of it than ever before.  

Although it can sometimes feel like whiplash with how quickly they move from one important event to the next, they are also the most educated and independent generation to date.   They have already changed the world so much, and most of them haven’t even graduated high school yet.  So why is Gen Z still thought to be lazy?   It is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of this idea, but it can hope to be erased by seeking to understand and empathize with people who are different from us.