Generational apathy, is there an increase?

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Jocelyn Lawson

   Apathy is defined by Merriam-Webster as a lack of emotion, interest, or concern. In recent years generational apathy has been brought up more and more, especially mentioned with Generation Z and alpha. Why is that?

   Generation Z are individuals born between the 1990s and 2010s often described as self-reliant and pragmatic. Generation alpha are individuals who are born between the 2010s and mid-2020s, though due to their young age they do not apply as much as Generation Z. 

   “Generation Z shares the classic teenage struggles of defining identity and searching for existential meaning in life, but does so in a drastically different zeitgeist,” stated Sophie Aldinger of the University of Colorado in her 2020 thesis.

   Raised in a time of excess and vapidness, with their lives lived in the realm of social media, it’s argued that Gen Z hasn’t had much to fight for. Classrooms are more silent, younger generations collect more and more information but care so little for it and easily swipe past catastrophe when it doesn’t involve them. The generation tends to also disregard issues that plague them such as mental health or struggles with attention, so on and so forth.

   “In a political context, these folks have also all been born into a chaotic climate. Since their birth, they’ve seen Obama, Trump, and Biden in office- a true ping pong across the political landscape. The only consistency? An ongoing nihilistic perspective about the world’s environmental and social landscape,” said Becky Meadows, a writer on Medium.

  When constantly told of the ‘doom and gloom’ of the world and the fact it will all go downhill, it shouldn’t be considered a shock that teenagers and young adults would feel a sense of carelessness towards a world that would regard their future as damned. That fact would make Generation Z’s sarcastic and straightforward look towards life more understandable than if they worked hard for a strong future. Though this is the stereotypical view of recent generational apathy, there are other reasons for the ‘apathy’.

   “While young citizens are the most likely to criticize the state of their political systems and apparently disengage from it, they are also the most likely – to a significant degree – to hold ambitious and idealist notions about what democratic participation should be like and about how involved they actually say they want to be (Bruter and Harrison, 2009),” stated the London School of Economics and Politics (LSE).

   As the generation’s early years generally have been safe and simple, many Generation Z individuals turn to strong movements and ideals that channel a sense of passion, emotion, and participation in non-traditional forms. Is it because of their apathy that they feel a need to perform some kind of passion or is it that the apathy itself is performative?

   “Due to the rise and fall of so many attempts at meaningful change, Generation Z has acquired a taste for apathy. The disconnect from their dreams, the nihilism, the disenchantment- these are all common attributes of this jaded generation,” Meadows said.

   “It is also worth noting that young people in our sample largely continue to favor a traditional conception of democracy, centered on the founding role of elections and the will of the people, suggesting that it is not with these mechanisms in principle that young people have problems,” the LSE said.

  At the end of the day, no Millennial, Generation X, or Boomer could say for sure what occurs in the minds of Generation Z. Some bears have answered this with their thoughts on if Generation Z is more apathetic.

   “I think some people can be apathetic, like when something happens to someone in the hallways or in classes sometimes people just don’t give the energy to help,” Kelly Bruce ‘24 said.

   “In a way yes and no, I wouldn’t say our whole generation is but there is a good amount who don’t care,” Sophia Asher ‘24 said.