2018 was a big year for Gen Zs. We asked them to recap the personal and political moments that mattered, in their words. Their response is illustrative of the trends that define this generation.
Like the rest of the world, Gen Z had a big year in 2018. It wasn’t all Fortnite and Ariana Grande for these young adults. Whether it was making the transition from high school to college, worrying about the future or taking a stand against issues that matter to them, Gen Z faced their own not-so-insignificant moments and milestones last year.
We asked some Gen Zers about what stood out for them in 2018. Here’s what they had to say.
On the topic of society: they’re all in this together
Maybe it’s always-on social media and constant news cycle, or maybe it’s because Gen Z sees themselves as citizens of the world. Whatever the cause, the outcome is this: they’re aware, they care and they’re paying attention—and not just to what’s happening in their hometown or city, but beyond.
“When I think of 2018, I think of almost a new era. It’s been a time of realizing what changes need to be made....I think  is going to be a year memorable for understanding and the start of change for better things to come.”
“When I think of 2018, I remember all the school shootings that happened this year.”
“A standout moment for me during 2018 was when the United States decided not to reinstate themselves in the Paris climate agreement. I also think about the issues with immigrants trying to come to the United States.”
“A standout moment for me this past year was the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. We need more women making decisions that support women. We need more People of Color making decisions that support People of Color. We need leaders that accurately represent the people of this country.”
On the topic of social media: From the silly to sublime and the hard stuff in between
When it comes to social media, Gen Zers get the irony. Online is a fun and informative place but for every news item, they realize it’s possibly fake, or at least not objective. The one thing it seems that social media is the uncontested winner of with Gen Z? Memes.
“I remember I found out about Ruth Bader Ginsburg falling when I was scrolling through my feed on Instagram. I find out about most world events through social media. On the one hand, it’s great–I can have all this information in the blink of an eye. But the information is often biased which can bite you in the butt. Social media is a double-edged sword and when it’s not used correctly, it can change public opinion and alter outcomes.”
“This year I remember memes. I remember how our world was changing at the speed of light and the only positive thing I could count on social media for was memes. As my peers and I struggled with what direction our country was going in and opinions were divided, at least we could all bond over memes.”
On matters of personal growth: When change feels like an itchy tag inside your t-shirt
Taxes, death and trouble aren’t the only things that are for sure in life. For Gen Z, you can add ‘change’ to the list.
Whether you’re a grown up marketing to Gen Z or you are raising one or more of them, (hand up); chances are, you’ve forgotten about the epic moments Gen Zers face as they mature. But not so for the kids experiencing it. For the Zs we talked to, there was a lot of angst and excitement over growing up and facing the unknown.
“I’ve always been really insecure and not confident about how I looked, my academics, talking to guys. This year I decided to do something about it. I started going to the gym, putting in more work at school, and trying to shoot my shot. Fast-forward to December 2018 and I’ve made HUGE progress.”
“In 2018, I’ve felt growing pressure to compete for a spot in the world. I’ve had to change my mindset from skating through life and school to applying myself to get a job and work towards college. I realized I need to stand out more than my parents and grandparents did, because the competition has become more fierce to get into good schools and to find a high-paying job. The pressure I’ve felt over the past year has made me change my outlook on life and take a hard look at what I want my future to be.”
This past year I left all my friends from middle school and went to high school not knowing where I was going to fit in. Almost everything about high school intimidated me. But luckily, I found a place where I liked it and where I was included. I realized that a lot of people were in the same situation I was in and I didn’t need to worry as much as I did.
“This year hasn’t been the easiest for many reasons. I lost one of my best friends since third grade. This made me pretty sad–but it taught me what I should look for in a great friend and how to not let people take advantage of me.”
On 2019: the year ahead for marketers
Gen Zs are remarkable. They hold themselves to high standards of awareness and authenticity. They have a lot on their minds and some of it’s pretty major stuff: education, health and well-being, societal and political issues. As marketers, it’s important that brands remember that to Gen Z, it’s not all fun and memes. Let's keep this in mind as we move into 2019.