Defining a Generation:
An exploration into Generation Z

Written by Leanne Esposito

The generation reaching adulthood in the second decade of the 21st century, perceived as being familiar with the internet from a very young age.

A literal definition of Generation Z is somewhat clinical, as are most sourced from a dictionary.

Knowing a generation to be the first born to the internet may conjure up postulations that this population is totally dependent upon electronic devices.

My interviews delved into this cohort and explored what it is to grow up surrounded by new age technology and the internet. An unfair assumption is they have been unutterably and negatively altered by the age to which they are born. Surprisingly, what I have discovered is the opposite.

Born between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z are far from what I could ever have imagined. I discovered they are a generation imbued with warm and loving tolerance, more focused on their fellow human than looking down the rabbit hole of the internet and into an uncertain abyss which doesn’t serve them. They are savvy, resourceful and above all aware of the life’s pitfalls – past and present. Their eyes have been well and truly opened at a young age. Whether their parents, educators and mentors have done a good job is up for debate. Perhaps they have learnt along the way how to navigate the internet. To be discerning information accumulators, unbinding themselves from the clutter of chaos which is ever present in the network’s netherworld.

Digressing a little here come with me on some intellectual navel gazing so that we have some context.

What do you know about your generation? The generation to which you were born? Are you a Boomer, Gen X, Y or Millennial? Look it up on the internet. You’ll be surprised where you fit.

Statisticians and researchers know an awful lot about you and your generation. It’s their business to do so. The data they gather helps governments and big business source information, which in turn, delivers goods targeted directly to the consumer in question and provides essential resources.

Demography develops tools to analyse changes in populations and to understand their needs.

Utilising common predictors of differences in attitudes and behaviours on issues ranging from foreign affairs to social policy. Age differences in attitudes can be some of the widest and most illuminating and it’s hard to accept that we may be shaped by the era into which we were born. The fact is we are.

Let’s look at the difference between the latest generations.

At the risk of offending an entire generation here, it has been written that Millennials were the most entitled and were classified as the Me generation. Taking a sharp turn, and Gen Z have been nominated the title of the We generation.

How did this happen you ask, especially in such a short space in time?

You might be surprised, as was I, to learn that despite living in a time of crisis amongst a global pandemic and born into a world where acts of terrorism were commonplace and the fear of climate change ever present, that the young women of Generation Z (which I interviewed) are in fact We Women who are surprisingly optimistic, resilient and tolerant. It seems that to them the needs of the collective far outweigh the individualist drive of the ego.

During my interviews with the three amigas, An Butler, Brydie Murphy and Morgan Heise I discovered what makes them and their generation tick. These young beautiful strong and independent women are on the cusp of their own greatness. I can sense it. Each possess distinct personalities and hold independent aspirations for life, and still they are concerned for their fellow humans. There is an intelligent awareness way beyond their years.

These firm friends met in middle school at St James Lutheran College. While they originate from diverse backgrounds and family structures, they meld effortlessly into the compassionate collective consciousness which their generation defines.

Each are successfully launching into new lives and careers while holding each other close and walking life’s path together.

An is the self-confessed weird one who is wildly artistic and started her own videography business, An Butler Films, at the age of 14. While working in retail she has reshaped her business model.

“I have rebranded to SIK Colour. I am now broader on creativity, focusing on videography, photography and art and have embraced my culture. SIK means colour in Chinese, so the name is a play on words,” An said.

While her father Jamie is a happy and calm individual, she credits her mother Joy as having the greatest influence, and not for the gift of artistic genes, but for her modelling of love and positivity.

“She isn’t afraid to be herself and speak her mind while still expressing so much love for the people around her,” she said.

Even An, who appears to be extremely chilled has learnt some difficult lessons about life and social anxiety to a point where she completely disconnected from the internet for a time.

Whilst she is most passionate about spending quality time with the people she loves she is equally passionate on matters of diversity.

“What I love about my generation is that we can express ourselves with all our differences without having the pressure to fit in to a box. I love being my true self,” An said.

Brydie originated in the Northern Territory and spent her formative years living in middle and northern Australia until her family moved to the Fraser Coast to be closer to xtended family on the Sunshine Coast.

“Dad is a fireman and was sent out to the rock to work for four years. I have since spent half of my life living in Queensland,” she said.

She loves spending time with her family, cooking dinner, watching movies and her friends mean the world to her. Brydie’s, like An’s, work life also started quite early.

At 14 she worked at M’Donalds. Right now, she is employed by the RSL as a café supervisor and works fulltime but it’s been a bumpy road with Covid intervening.

“I started as a school-based trainee in 2019. After the Covid shutdown I was re-employed as a casual and not long after working fulltime I was bumped up to supervisor,” she said.

Brydie believes we should be kind to each other and try to understand that everyone has a different perspective and says this behaviour has been modelled by her parents, who she describes as kind and gentle.

She considers her time with the RSL as a working gap year. This year she has been offered a place in a Bachelor of Paramedicine course. Watching her parents Tanya and Shaun work in caring professions like the QFRS, oncology and disability care has shown her how your work ethic can make a difference in other’s lives.

“Be true to yourself and trust your gut. Stick up for what you think is right. I am absolutely optimistic about the future, what’s the point not being so,” she said.

Morgan, the brainiac of the trio, has always followed academic pursuits. This country kid who started life in Blackwater continues to excel despite life’s struggles.

Straight out of high school she commenced a physiotherapy degree however moved home to be with her parents after the tragic death of her 12-year-old brother Finn.

“In March 2020 my brother passed away. With physiotherapy I wanted to work in a hospital setting. Studying nursing meant I could stay closer to home,” Morgan said.

Both her parents have medical careers. Mum Sarah works in administration at the hospital and her dad Troy is a paramedic. So, it’s not surprising that she should choose a career in medicine, especially as the family’s dinner conversations often revolve around work and politics.

She holds her dad in high esteem. Equally for the lives he saves and the positive influence he has on her life. Morgan learns as much as she can about his life as a paramedic and has enjoyed hearing his work stories over the years.

“Hopefully the plan is for me to sit UCAT and go to medical school. I want to work in emergency. I want to help people and I’ve seen the forefront of what emergency medicine can look like with my brother. I know the power of what a good doctor can do. I want to give that to more people,” Morgan said.

In Morgan’s spare time she works at Spec Savers, reads novels and takes dance classes. As a teenager she competed to a high standard. Issues on which she is interested are climate change, women’s rights and First Nations people.

Apart from her father there was another man who made a huge impression on her life and helped to propel her in her current direction.

“Mr Salagaris was a really good teacher. I recall walking into his class at St James for the first time. He said, ‘if you are coming in to the class and getting B’s at the moment then you will be getting A’s.’ He fostered in me a love of science and kept me going,” she said.

There are so many common threads woven between An, Brydie and Morgan despite their diverse interests and distinct personalities. Morgan recalls their first meeting.

“One of my closest friends moved away from St James and I stumbled across the group sitting behind this building at school. I just inserted myself. All of us had no one else. We all got along really well and now have this awesome friendship,” she said.

Their love of family, for each other and unpretentious natures sees them sharing a rare friendship which has bonded through years of trials, tribulations, and triumphs.

These We Women are wonders of nature worthy of study into the future. I can’t wait to see what shapes their lives will take. And we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that this is our first real high-tech generation.

So, when you think that computers, the internet and social media have impacted their worlds, it’s surprising to learn that high tech hasn’t consumed them.

Sure, each has personally and tragically felt the negative impacts of technology but now take proactive steps to counter its influence. They reach out, open up and seek help. Communication is key.

Further, they have spurned social and media negativity and shunned big brand names.

So unimpressed by artificial intelligence which delivers flash targeted advertisements – discernment is their dogma.

Each have described an unprivileged upbringing where family time and outside play, study and artistic pursuits far outweigh the pull of the plug and play.

They are dispassionate on politics admitting their life’s experiences do not qualify them to comment. Living sustainably with environmental awareness is important.

Their music choices are eclectic and in their search for melodic freedom they seek expression through Australian indie and banded ballads from their parents’ generation which speak to truth and love.

It seems there are other worlds to conquer – the collective is paramount. They want personal freedom for all, applauding the use of the gender fluid personal pronouns in the quest for acceptance of LGBTQ and others who seek unbinding from previously boxed scenarios. To be who you want to be is their mantra.

Their generation may well have been defined by the animated film Shrek released in 2001. It was the first animated film since Disney’s 1953 Peter Pan to successfully compete at the Cannes Film Festival.

This wildly popular film has been described as culturally, historically and aesthetically significant. It’s theme song ‘All Star’ resonates strongly with their generation as An, Brydie and Morgan agree that the movie’s impact on their lives is indelible.

‘All that glitters is not gold, only shooting stars can break the mould.’

The message of self-love and acceptance is clear. The story is about learning to tolerate others and accept them. Whether you’re born an Ogre, a donkey or a dragon, you are loved and can achieve anything if you set your mind to it.

How can you predict the future? You can’t!

All I now know is that with this generation we are in safe and loving hands.