While researching for my novel, I stumbled upon my diary from the late 80’s to early 90’s. Throughout the hard-covered, bejeweled, lockable book is the usual insight into my development and life – stories switch between my home life to my school. My spelling shows continued, dramatic improvement. My focus jumps from the trivial and self-centered, to the insightful and worldly- all within one entry. At 10 years old, in the early 90’s, the only exposure I had to the outside world was through television, my parents, school and friends. I was, and still am, a member of Generation Catalano or as Buzzfeed describes, stuck between Millennial and Gen X – optimistic, yet cynical. Digitally savvy but I didn’t have a cell phone until I was in college. The only “facebook” I had access to was a printed handout given to incoming freshmen.
Despite the lack of connectivity, at 10 years old this is what I wrote:
My main goal in life is to be useful for health, food, clothing needs and saving the earth from hate and pollution. The reason why I’m telling you this is because we just had a war. There is no more fighting, but we still need to figure out how to defeat Hadam Husane [Saddam Hussein]. Because of the war, many people spent more money for guns, bombs, and other weapons. Many people have lost their jobs. I thank god that my father, instead, got a promotion. We are lucky to have a house. Many people have been killed. Some because of the war. The rest from cold-hearted people. More people are selling crack to support their families.
The rain forest is getting killed more and more every day. In fact, I was watching HBO and they had a movie dedicated to saving the rain forest. More whales are getting killed. Their blubber provides candles and lipstick.
I was astute to the atrocities and hardships of the world.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, our level of connectivity has evolved but our world has not. Children today are exposed to the harsh realities of the world and no amount of parental sugar-coating will protect them. These findings have been validated through consumer research. The Sound found that Generation Z is a more mature, self-aware generation than Generation Y – and possess a sense of wisdom beyond their years.
Even Generation Z’s pop-cultural references fail to hide the realities of the world. Over a decade ago, Harry Potter broke the rules of typical children’s literature when it killed off various characters – a far cry from the G-rated, Disney cartoons of the 80’s and 90’s. Millennials learned that while the world was fraught with problems, resilience and their own special magic could solve them. Following Harry Potter, The Hunger Games pushed the notion of child innocence even further – in this world, children weren’t just fighting evil, but forced to fight each other to violent deaths.
But unlike Gen X or even my in-between generation, children today have the tools to make a measurable, positive impact on society. Beyond growing up with computers and smartphones, they live in a world where any question can be answered through Google or any skill gained for through YouTube. Teenagers like Tavi Gevinson are using their social presence to inspire. Students like Neha Gupta are using their access to web-design and ingenuity to make the type of impact in college that entrepreneurs like Bill Gates started making during his second career as a philanthropist. Generation Z are so resourceful that they even seek brands that help them acquire new skills, according to the latest Cassandra Report.
Every day, we are all exposed to new atrocities and situations that feel so beyond our control. But we are on the brink of a positive change. Empowered Millennials are overtaking the workforce, reaching more than 50% in 2015. Compassionate Gen-Zers, whose lives have been shaped by the recession, a government fraught with special interests, the realities of climate change and a world where there’s no denying our inter-connectivity – are eligible to vote in the 2016 election.