Who is Gen Z Anyway?

September 6, 2023

Also known as iGen and Centennials, the Z’s are the young people born between 1997 and 2012. 

As a Baby Boomer myself, parent of five Millennials, and grandparent of two Alphas, I felt the need to brush up on my understanding of the Gen Z’ers all around me--making lattes at Starbucks, starting the tech companies that will power the coming decades, that kind of thing. 

Who are these strange young creatures, and why are they all getting flip phones, wearing low-rise jeans and listening to (early) Weezer? Well, seems that they are very nostalgic about what they see as the good old days. Now, to me, nostalgia still conjures up sepia-toned images of paper boys on bikes and glass milk bottles in metal boxes, and three channels on my rabbit-eared TV. But for these guys, that’s just waaaaayyy too long ago to imagine. To a Gen Z’er, the 1990's is plenty far back in time to remember, the Ancient of Days Before Wifi.

What are some other signs that you are in the presence of a Z?

They are: 

                  *Very anxious about their future (gee, with COVID, increasing societal divisiveness, and a planet going up in flames, I wonder why they’re worried?)

                  *Really diverse and accepting. They see no value in all of us looking, thinking and acting the same.  Instead, they celebrate what makes us each unique and special.

                 *Financially conservative (at their age I was still a faithful member of the Columbia Record Club, with a checking account balance of $3.50.) They see the wisdom in savings and careful investment.

                 *Avid travelers, and they’re not afraid to roam the world on the cheap (see above for reason)

                 *Smart digital consumers. They’re seeing the down side of 24/7 online, and giving themselves mental health breaks from technology (hence the flip phones).

But that’s not all!!         

 They have coined some new abbreviations when they are online. No more LOL (which too many boomers thought meant “lots of love” instead of "laughing out loud," a tad odd when used in response to news of Great Grandma’s death). Now it’s the more evocative, and harder to misconstrue, IJBOL (I Just Burst Out Laughing). Emojis tend to be used ironically, more than literally. As for me, I rely on the simple smiley or heart for ALL occasions, and I don’t know what I’d do if faced with something like 😬. It either means “awkward” or “I still have all my teeth.” I think. Side note (which I learned the hard way): Never end a text sentence with a period. It makes you seem angry. Unless you really are angry, in which case, go ahead.

In summary, Gen Z'ers, like the rest of us, are just trying to navigate the world, and create lives of meaning and purpose. I send them love, forgive them for the revival of Uggs, and can’t wait to see what the Alphas have in store for them when THEY become the oldsters!



    I am an author (of five books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a retired director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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