No one wants to seem old and outdated. The key to avoiding this is learning how to think like the next generation. So recognize what you care about that younger people don’t care about. Not like a house and mortgage – that stuff is dependent on what stage of life you’re in. I’m talking about things that are not dependent on stage of life - values and your outlook, which tend to be more generational.
When it comes to Generation Z, the most jarring shift is that they’ll be obsessed with the bolstering of public institutions. This is a generation that cares about consensus-building and sticking with the systems that bind us together. And in order to rebuild after crisis, the generation will stress conformity – because noncomformity is a guilty-pleasure of a generation with no crises (like the Baby Boomers growing up in the 50s). Generation Z will focus on being part of the whole rather than differentiating themselves as special.
Given what we know about Generation Z here are four things you can stop caring about.
1. Linguistics gymnastics for gender-specific pronouns.
If you came of age in the seventies, you have an annoying tic of using the unexpected pronoun. For example, “If your child wants a Barbie, be sure to get him the latest one.”
Generation X, being more aware of the debaucheries of feminist tyranny, are more easy-going about foisting Barbie dolls on girls, but still, Generation X will periodically throw in a “they” in annoying situations. For example, “If a bully finds a willing victim, they will go after that victim.”
Generation Y has come up with nothing new, because they’re the non-innovative generation. Generation Z is saving us all from plural pronoun problems with “yo,” As in “Hey, Yo, meet met at 10pm.” The word yo means you don’t have to specify if the group is male or female which would, of course, mean you would need to stress over the problem of calling women “you guys”.
And this is just the beginning of the language of inclusiveness from a generation that will promote the greater good with every tool they have, even linguistics.
2. Whiz-bang technology.
Generation Z is over the idea that we can get technology to do anything. The Pew Institute reports that they’ll choose their devices based on battery life. It’s clear to me after watching four seasons of Regular Show that Generation Z’s appreciation for the over-the-top, very expensive, self-involved animation of Dreamworks and Electronic Arts is zero. And when I tried to explain why our BMW stereo is better than the iPhone, my son fired back to me, “it doesn’t matter how good the stereo is, I can control the iPhone from the backseat.”
When people come to our house to visit and ask what my kids do for homeschool all day, my kids show everyone Minecraft. You would think everyone’s first reaction would be, “You play video games all day?” But, in fact, their first reaction is, “This is 1980s animation!” And it’s true. But my kids don’t care.
So it’s becoming old-school to be impressed with new-fangled technologies. Generation X and Y use technology to differentiate themselves. Generation Z realizes that they have better things to do. So you might as well realize that too.
The word retirement will be like the word typewriter. The only difference is, there are still typewriters around that you can buy for $300, but by the time Generation Z comes around, there will be zero retirement funds. There will be nothing to reminisce about. The biggest reason for there being no retirement fund is that there is no money.
Generation Z will look a lot like the people who gave all their money to War Bonds — self-sacrifice for the greater good will come naturally, so their lack of retirement won’t bother them.
But separately, and fortunately, there is also no need for retirement. We have a new understanding of what work is, and work is something that you do in tandem with your life, and they support each other intellectually and emotionally. Work is something you do to make your life full and engaging.
Generation Z will change careers on average five times in their lives. They will drop out of the workforce twice to take care of family. And they will be more comfortable than any generation in history with a major ego-crushing salary cut. After all that, the difference between what Baby Boomers are calling retirement and what Generation Y is calling work is nothing, so there will be no need to for retire in the future.
4) Shelf space.
If we did a graph of the importance of shelf space throughout the last hundred years, we would start with the Baby Boomers, who constructed McMansions with disgustingly dated built-in shelves, and filled them with all of their possessions. Generation X would have wanted that, but they didn’t have any money. So they rented out rooms and filled the shelves with books and CDs and DVDs. I had friends in small apartments who used to stack their trade paperbacks three deep, in the same way that people park cars three deep in NYC; You have to have a map to know how to find your stuff.
Generation X is the only generation who had to store three types of media for music: records, cassettes, and CDs. (Side note: As an homage to this moment in shelf space history, Starbucks issued a CD called My Last Mix Tape. I looked at the barista and said Wow, this is the best title ever for a CD. And the barista looked back at me with a blank stare.)
In the history of shelf space, Generation Y will be known as the itinerant generation. Raised to search endlessly for happiness, (“Do what you love! Live your best life! Follow your dreams!) Generation Y searches endlessly for something that doesn’t exist, which means they tote all of their belongings around in something that ranges from a backpack to trunk space.
When Generation Y finally does buy a house, it’s always small, because Generation Y needs to save their money to do fun things, so they can post the pictures on Facebook about how fun their lives are. Their small houses are decorated in shelf space-fetish-ization: wallpaper that has books, books that are color-coded, and turning things that used to consume shelf space into shelf space.
Generation Z needs no shelf space. Everything is digital. And all of their expectations of owning a shelf large enough to put anything on have been squashed. Generation Z will be focused on accumulating patriotism, national spirit, and a badge of global citizenship. The new shelf space is in our hearts and minds.