Generation Z, or the iGeneration, gets a lot of flak from its predecessors. It's a longstanding tradition to think that the era in which you came of age was indisputably the best, and each to follow falls short. I've heard my peers refer to this upcoming generation as lazy, unsocial and completely dependent on technology; they have no drive, they have no grit.
I don't buy it.
The iGeneration is going to improve the world in ways we can't even imagine. With time, we always come to realize that each generation brings something special to the table. I think this is especially true for Generation Z. This remarkable age group is set to make a profound difference; they have a universal desire to have their voices heard. They were born into a broken world, and have made it their cause to fix it.
Engaging the next generation
We all know that Generation Z is constantly connected to technology. In 2012, a Time Inc. study revealed that consumers who grew up with mobile technology (aka Gen. Z-ers) switch between devices 27 times per hour. 27 times! And according to the New York Times, they spend an average of 7.5 hours per day on a computer, television or other device. In the constant battle for their attention, how can we reach them?
The world is changing and Generation Z is at the forefront. Instead of accusing youth for being lazy and entitled, we should consider that maybe the problem is in our unfounded outlook. We are unfairly measuring the traits of a new generation by old standards. Instead, we should learn more about how these digital natives operate so we can better reach them.
Telling them stories
Once we join the tech party, we have to capture their attention. These days, engagement is a two-way street. I believe in the power of storytelling to ignite conversation, especially with Generation Z. Being constantly connected to media -- which is ultimately just a conglomeration of stories -- half the battle is already won. TV shows, songs and YouTube videos are the most obvious examples, but even social media is a story-forward platform -- by "following" someone, you're engaged with their life story in real time.
There's power in a brilliantly-told story. Stories can change the world. Stories make us feel less lonely. Stories make us feel. Stories make people feel what we want them to feel. This is all especially true for Generation Z. To influence social change, we must provide high quality content that tells a positive story.
Empowering their cause
When we match a digital relationship with the influence of storytelling, we have the ability to empower young people to make a difference. That's the strategy for many social change organizations like Invisible Children, To Write Love on Her Arms and my nonprofit, Natural High. Our mission is to encourage youth to make better choices and lead better lives. In giving them the platform to tell their own stories, we have the power to unleash a tidal wave of positive social change -- through the generation that has made it their cause.
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