An Open Letter to Gen Z: It’s Time to Grow Up
Dear Gen Zers,
We need to stop being intellectually lazy and afraid.
Today, more than ever, we young adults too-willingly allow others to think for us. We outsource our convictions and beliefs to what we see and hear on social media, and we pompously brandish these ideas as our own. A recent survey found that over half of all U.S. teens (ages 13 to 18) get their news from social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The report discovered that among teens who are daily YouTube consumers, 71% say they are more likely to get their news from celebrities, influencers, and personalities while only 28% are likely to get it from official news organizations active on the platforms. This generational divergence from traditional media outlets can have devastating long-term impacts.
When social media influencers post news-related content, we (as the loyal supporters we are) often like, repost, and share the influencers’ messaging. Then, thanks to confirmation bias and powerful proprietary algorithms, social media platforms flood our feeds with posts sharing similar viewpoints and perspectives — which we then often present as our own.
We find comfort in having a resource tell us what is good and bad, which movement to follow and which to vehemently oppose. We share edgy Instagram captions trumpeting global affairs on our stories because our favorite actor or celebrity singer did. But how many of us genuinely understand the issues at hand (with all their nuance)? How many of us analyzed the opposing viewpoints and questioned the presupposed biases of our own?
We, understandably, are scared to think for ourselves. What if we are wrong? What if we go through the rigorous and demanding process of forming our own opinions and beliefs, and our peers reject our views? We cower away from failure, so we find shelter relying on our next best option: reposting what celebrities with millions of followers say. But we cannot let this fear of failure or unfavorable critique restrain us for the rest of our lives. We can easily become dependent on this process. We can become dependent on not thinking for ourselves, and we will create a self-imposed metaphorical cage of constantly looking to others when forming our own beliefs. We must find the courage to remove ourselves from our self-incurred immaturity and not outsource our thinking to whatever 140-character tweets arbitrarily populate our feed.
We must have a renewed interest in challenging presupposed assumptions and applying intense skeptical scrutiny to all the information presented before us — especially on social media. Deliberative logic and quality research must triumph over the convenience of liking and reposting. We must find comfort in the uncomfortable and relief in ideological confrontation.
Gen Z, it is time for a paradigm shift — an intellectual one and a generational one.