Those who were born between 1997-2021 are part of Generation Z (also known as Gen Z, iGen, or centennials). Raised in the age of the internet, this generation is composed of true digital natives. They grew up on Facebook, dwell on Twitter, flex on Instagram, and are currently obsessed with Tiktok. Social media is this generation’s kingdom—are they responsible rulers though?
Social media platforms have undeniably been a key in the propagation of civic expression, especially for Gen Z. They do not shy away from discussions regarding politics, race, gender, generational gaps, body image, and more. Since Gen Z has something to say about almost every issue out there, many netizens have deemed them as the woke generation.
Woke is a slang term that pertains to someone who is socially aware and expressive. With generations after generations being silenced, one would think that being called woke is a compliment. After all, is not freedom of expression something to be celebrated? Others think otherwise… As more netizens become vocal about their opinions, those who have opposing views also started to make theirs known. Calling someone woke is now being used as a form of anti-intellectualism to express dissent against Gen Z’s supposed oversensitivity. The question is: is Gen Z actually oversensitive?
This sensitivity leads this generation to passionate assertions. Spitting racial slurs, cat-calling, and body-shaming was nothing out of the ordinary in the past. To combat the accustomed, the support for #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and #BoPo, among other movements, is now appropriated and celebrated on the internet.
If being overly sensitive is not laughing at offensive jokes then fine… Call Gen Z “pa-woke”, “killjoy”, and “oversensitive.” But, is not claiming the proliferation of respect “overly sensitive” rather than “appropriate” proof of the still present derogatory views of the past? Though not all, many people of this generation will no longer tolerate racist, sexist, and homophobic actions that older generations have conformed with.
Undeniably, the essence of Gen Z’s passion for their principles deserves praise. Though, the manner in which they relay their thoughts on social media is far from perfect. Gen Z is not oversensitive, but they can misplace their focus on irrelevant matters like cancel and call-out culture. Both practices are founded upon a culture of online activism which in its foundation is commendable. The problem is both cultures aim to merely broadcast the faults of a certain entity or individual, rather than solve the issues presented at hand. Although the intention of the cultures may be well, the results do not reflect so.
As much as Gen Z should be praised for their vigor, they should also be held responsible for falling victim to faux online activism. As a member of Gen Z myself, I urge my peers to be proud yet responsible for the power we hold. Recognize the great influence you have over the internet and society as a whole.
Therefore, let us not allow any power to silence our cries towards the injustices of the systems that surround us. “Pa-woke,” “killjoy,” and “oversensitive”—Turn these insults into motivation and continue to dismantle hurtful and outdated cultures. Do so by educating other people about the relevant issues of our community and how to properly address these topics on social media.