Bless This Break
Seasoned do-it-yourselfers and entrepreneurs, some Zs said their newfound downtime feels like a blessing in disguise. “I've always had a ‘go, go, go’ attitude and booked myself a week in advance. This time is giving our generation a chance to reset and take time for ourselves,” reflected Jamie, 22, in New Jersey. “Reset” is a word we’re hearing again and again from Zs, who are using self-isolation to focus on things they don’t usually have time for.
“I want to use this time to focus on myself and come out as a stronger, healthier and happier individual,” said Emily, 19, in Wahoo, NE, who said she’s investing in her mental, physical and spiritual health right now by eating clean, working out and journaling. Andrew, 22, in Minneapolis has been asking himself, “How can I use this time to focus on my own personal growth?” Personal growth during quarantine has historic precedence, as it turns out; as one viral tweet explained, “When Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear.” It’s true. Historians believe Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra during plague-times when London playhouses were all closed. What will be Gen Zs coronavirus-inspired masterworks?
“What if the virus is here to help us to remember what is truly important to us? What if the virus is an ally in our evolution?”
—Jamie, 22, New Jersey
Already, we’re seeing their creative output boom. There’s been an explosion of new music (see ‘rona raps) and thousands of new social media memes. Seventeen-year-old self-taught computer whiz, Avi Schiffmann, built a website that uses web scraping technology to accurately report on the pandemic, while combating misinformation. Two Yale computer science majors created Love Over Zoom, an online game where they match any college student across the country with either a “new friend” or “blind date” to connect with over Zoom. In less than two days, over 2,200 college students signed up to participate. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Davis in Los Angeles, told us he’s been painting, making period films and learning to code through an online Harvard course. Compare this with the lockdown experience of folks in China’s Hubei province, where the search term "boring" grew by over 600% in January on the social media site Weibo.
“I hope this time will build broader growth opportunities. Will we become a better society when we come out of this? I really hope so.”
—Aaron, 24, Tempe, AZ
This creative explosion isn’t just about combating the boredom of downtime, it’s also about catharsis. “I started my own website and I want to write and share things that maybe don’t belong on social media,” said Aaron, 24, in Tempe, AZ. Like many of us, Aaron said he’s looking for distraction as well as a means to process what’s happening in the world. King, 21, in Houston is on the same page, “If I worry, I’ll only bring myself down, so I’m using this time to find more things that make me happy.”
Gen Zs are also taking this opportunity to reflect on and reassess their income streams, especially as their day gigs dry up. Many Zs are setting up Patreon accounts for their creative endeavors. Instagram models who had been putting out content for free to the masses, have turned to the paywall-for-paycheck subscription content app, Only Fans, to earn an income from their photos. Other Gen Zs tell us they’re using this time to finally read up on the stock market and load funds onto free trading apps, such as Acorns and Robinhood, since the barrier to investing has virtually fallen away.
“For those of us who are lucky enough to come out of this mess on the other side, we need to use this experience as a chance to reset. I'm eager for the chance to start living again, and living with purpose.”
—Alex, 19, Boston
While it’s too soon to tell, there might be a long-term payoff to this coronavirus-imposed creative retreat for Gen Zs. Some teens and twentysomethings said they believe this crisis could provide them with a competitive advantage over older generations. Before the pandemic, Gen Zs were already creative tech-savvy cultural mix-masters—now they’re that, plus they’re armed with new knowledge, skills, software and, of course, the potent power of Zoom. Perhaps most importantly, Zs will likely grow up fast after this. We saw Millennials adopt a more serious worldview after 9/11, focusing on more sincere hobbies and interests, and Gen Zs are likely to have a similar hard-knocks awakening.