There is a “deeper ideology lurking in the minds of younger millennials & Gen Z,” as Esmé Partridge writes, “the rejection of idealism in all its forms.” Disenchanted with the world, plagued by hopelessness and nihilism, we have become a generation of zombies — a group of youth that is too dead to live and too alive to die.
No Purpose or Place
In the 1920s, famed novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald described his lost generation as one that had “grown up to find all gods dead, all wars fought, and all faith in man shaken.”
A century later, Gen Z finds itself in a similar position. The past haunts us, and a stormy future looms over the horizon. Even in our happiest moments, we’ve come to expect something bad just around the corner. Anxiousness afflicts many Zoomers — more than half of us already think humanity is doomed.
Though we share similarities with past generations, Gen Z is unique. Some argue Zoomers will eventually outgrow their crazy beliefs in the same way hippies eventually got jobs and created families. Millennials, however, are only getting more liberal as they age, breaking one of the oldest rules in politics. According to a recent Gallup poll, roughly 1 in 5 Gen Z adults says he or she is LGBTQ.
First and foremost, Gen Z craves distinction. They want to differentiate themselves from the masses by changing the world through fighting climate change, institutional racism, capitalism — you name it. This might explain why 1 in 4 people aged 16-25 wants to become an influencer when he or she grows up.
Why the thirst for power and status? Humans need goals that require effort to attain. We are like archers who need a clear and higher target. The popularity of figures such as Jordan Peterson shows that, especially for young men, it is no longer clear what that target is.
A Developmental Crisis
In the book “iGen,” Jean Twenge observes that more than previous generations, Zoomers aren’t growing up. We don’t have a meaningful target anymore. Gen Z is dating less, quitting jobs, not attending church, and spending half its waking time online. If Zoomers need attention, they use Instagram. Bored? Netflix or Youtube. Horny? Pornhub. Hungry? UberEats.
It’s not surprising that pundits like Jesse Singal and Jonathan Haidt blame social media for Gen Z’s stunted growth. Apps such as TikTok and Instagram have no doubt profoundly affected us, but blaming social media for Gen Z’s mental health epidemic is only half-correct.
Before we had Instagram, we had liberalism. As Patrick Deneen once wrote, “It is less a matter of our technology ‘making us’ than of our deeper political commitments shaping our technology.”
Jaded and Conformist
Inauthenticity has reached its peak with Gen Z. To be part of the in-group, a Zoomer must adopt a live-and-let-live attitude and remain blasé at all times, unattached to all people and things. Like Gen X, they avoid sincerity, choosing instead to be ironic, humorous, or just plain passionless.
For Zoomers, being serious is “cringe.” They dislike partisan politics because it’s rooted in taking differences seriously. Gen Z is disproportionately liberal not because they are passionate card-carrying Democrats — although some of them are — but because they are apathetic. They just want to be left alone by what the media portray as Bible thumpers, old white politicians, and conservatives.
It is revealing that the only time Gen Z ever seems mobilized to take things seriously is when a police officer kills a black man or abortion is restricted. Gen Z is so well catechized into its political religion that within minutes, like a flock of sheep, millions of Zoomers suddenly start sharing infographics, donation pages, and memes all over social media. Gen Z only cares about a particular issue when a so-called victim group is allegedly oppressed, or there’s a threat to its autonomy. As soon as the latest political trend goes away, Zoomers stop caring.
A Generation Without Love
The sexual revolution of the ’60s didn’t bring about communism, as Wilhelm Reich hoped, but capitalism in the sexual market. Now driven by a desire for recognition, Zoomers want sexual empowerment above all else.
To that end, Zoomers avoid caring about finding relationships. As one study found, “only one in 10 Gen Z members say they are ‘committed to being committed,’” preferring solitude (or situationships) to real relationships.
Since seeking commitment is now perceived as exerting pressure, young people must put up a facade of unseriousness and just look for green flags so as not to alienate the person they desire.
Even in a relationship, the psychoanalyzing doesn’t cease. Zoomers analyze texts, obsess over appearance, and worry that their romantic interests are dating other people from Tinder. This perpetual state of uncertainty is so exhausting that many are choosing to either throw out sexual rules completely or abstain from relationships altogether.
Repressed and Insecure
With religious values and sexual norms no longer fixed, many Zoomers struggle to nail down a sense of worth and are thus insecure. Not expressing their real personalities or feelings, these Zoomers live in a perpetual state of “LARPing” and suffer from main character syndrome.
Given their repression of “cringe” thoughts and feelings the in-group might not like, Gen Z’s higher likelihood of engaging in self-harm is unsurprising. To escape the torturous emptiness so many Zoomers find themselves in today, many reach for a razor blade or a smartphone. Either Zoomers gobble down drugs for mental illness, harm themselves, or vainly attempt to produce a sense of self with endless selfies and videos for their followers.
The Zoomers’ obsession with “mental health” and “normalizing” certain behaviors is a byproduct of their unstable self-image. Without knowing how to make sense of their emotions, they outsource the task of understanding themselves to therapists.
Godless and Selfish
More than anything, Gen Z wants to feel alive. They turned out in droves to support BLM in 2020 because it enabled them to experience the emotional highs and lows of religion without the responsibilities. As Twitter user Zero HP Lovecraft wrote, “Christians are persecuted by bureaucrats, tamely and passively,” while black people “are persecuted by cops with guns and gas grenades. … Only one of these is exciting.” In other words, one belief system feels boring and uninteresting, the other eventful and real — hence why many gravitate toward the latter.
Even many modern so-called Christians, as Rod Dreher observed, use religion as “a psychological adjunct to life, a buffer to the harshness of the materialistic, individualistic lives they actually want to lead.” In the context of Zoomers, that makes religion — and its secular woke derivatives — a supposed stimulant for attaining health and well-being. Since Gen Z now worships the “God within,” there has been a rise in gnostic beliefs, self-improvement and wellness cults, astrology and tarot, and, of course, LGBT orthodoxy.
In our post-religious society, life has been reduced to a biological process that must be optimized for the sake of social approval. Instead of prayer, we use painkillers. Instead of aspiring toward good works that glorify God, we engage in meaningless activities that glorify ourselves. And out of that reality has emerged the next undead generation. The horde of Gen Z zombies is mindlessly marching, ready to mobilize but not thrive.