They prefer reading anything on a screen to reading on a paper. In fact, as a more environmentally conscious generation than the previous ones, they are more encouraging of conserving paper to save trees and eliminating the use of plastic. By and large, they are reckless and don’t like waiting. They live in a constant state of FOMO, the fear of missing out, and prefer sending and receiving text messages to making phone calls. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Pakistan’s Generation Z.
As a millennial instructor at a university in Lahore, I teach Generation Z students. Their concentration span is even shorter than my generation. To boost class concentration and to maximise productivity, I often give my students a two-minute break to look at their smartphones before resuming my lecture. By employing this tactic, I have noticed that they tend to pay more attention to the lecture and resist the otherwise constant desire to browse through the social media apps on their phones.
Demographers and researchers use the years 1995 and 2015 as birth years for Generation Z. Also, known as Plurals, iGen, Digital Natives, Gen Tech, this generation aged between 4 and 24, includes the median age of Pakistan according to the Pakistan Demographics Profile of 2018. Median age is the age that divides a population into two numerically equal groups — that is, half the people are younger than this age and half are older. It is a single index that summarises the age distribution of a population.
Pakistan’s Generation Zers don’t remember the times of Benazir Bhutto. They grew up in a post 9/11 world where Pakistan had a specific role on the world stage. They have seen the global refugee crisis, the Arab Spring and the rise of China as a competitor to the US in terms of global influence. For them, protesting is using the relevant trending hashtag on social media and activism is creating and signing petitions on Facebook and Twitter. Instead of watching news on television they prefer following news organisations on Instagram and follow their Insta stories to get their daily dose of information of what is happening in the country and around the world. One of my students tells me that she prefers watching 3-4-minute-long videos about topics that interest her rather than watching an entire documentary.
I often ask my first-year university students about what they want to be when they grow up and I find it fascinating that most of them want to be entrepreneurs and do their own thing. The fact is, that for most of these students, their learning has been defined by the limitlessness of the internet. Hence, most of them prefer not to be defined by or limited to traditional career paths. Since technology is so malleable, it tends to create an opportunity for customised experiences, consequently this generation has a very unique sense of self. They are very self-aware about what they like and what they dislike. They are also more open and susceptible to change as their learning has been defined by technology and they know everything requires an upgrade or a new version which will be better and provide a new and improved experience.
People from Generation Z also prefer communicating by using their devices than talking in person. In fact, they tend to have more friends online. Given the drastic innovation in the gaming space, the video game playing culture connects players online and gives them the opportunity to play at any hour during the day, while sitting in the comfort of their room. They prefer playing video games online than playing sports in a field.
The Generation Z cohort also has more friends on social media than they know people in person. Most of my students prefer following social media influencers than celebrities. A social media influencer is a person who has established their credibility online. These people have access to a large audience and they have the power to influence their followers by virtue of their authenticity and reach.
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One thing I find troubling about this generation is the declining trend in reading books. Some of my students have told me that they have never read a book in their life. They use online summaries to get by in classes. Some say, that even though they wish to read, they just can’t finish a book because they easily lose interest. I often gear them towards reading short stories or essays for starters but given how the publishing industry is nosediving, this generation’s plummeting interest in reading books is worrisome.
All in all, it will be fascinating watching this generation grow up, enter the workforce and take charge of the world in their unique way.