Over the past few months, there has been a lot of buzz around Gen Z and the creator economy (or what many would sum up as being a “TikToker”).
I’ve read countless articles trying to detail this generation and explain what the creator economy is all about, however, they all seem to fail at one thing - they’re written by outsiders.
As a Gen Z influencer who grew a TikTok audience of 350k during the pandemic, I’m here to demystify my generation and talk about the new frontiers we’re forging.
In 2019, Gen Z surpassed Millennials to become the largest generation on the planet. With nearly 2.5 billion alive today, we are expected to make up 30% of the global workforce by 2030.
These so-called “digital natives” or “zoomers” are defined as those born between 1996 and 2010; a generation that grew up on the internet, smartphones, and social media (and we’re using it to our advantage).
There’s no better example of this than at the onset of the global pandemic when the full force of Gen Z took to social media and supercharged the multi-billion dollar creator economy. While many are struggling to keep up, Gen Z is #thriving.
With over 50 million creators and counting, this economy isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the driving forces shaping the behaviors of Gen Z and how they’re influencing a new era of entreprenuership.
🤝 Community and Authenticity
Let’s start at the root of what makes Gen Z so unique. It isn’t just our size or technological nativeness, it’s also our diversity.
Gen Z is a globally connected generation and the most racially and ethnically diverse yet in US history. This matters because it ultimately shapes the core of our values.
From gender norms and sexuality to human rights and environmentalism, we care about the collective and have radically inclusive views. We may shy away from making a phone call but we’ll be the first to speak up against injustice (and put a “Karen” in their place).
However, these characteristics tend to conflict with institutional norms which is a primary motivation for us to forge our own path.
Arguably, this is one of the reasons TikTok has become so popular. Its unique AI algorithm connects people who share experiences and builds communities based on niches. Challenging norms and being different is the new status quo.
🌐 A World of Our Own
Though I can only speak on my experience growing up in America during the early 2000s, I believe that Gen Z remains united by issues that transcend borders.
Influenced by social media and mobile technology and impacted by the recession, global warming, and terrorism; we are a generation shaped by impending doom.
In America, the Baby Boomers and Millenials who came before Gen Z, for better or worse, were quite individualistic in their endeavors (all about “me”).
“Get off your phone and go play outside” I often heard my parents say.
* The outside in question. *
Other than a tree in our local concrete jungle, I don’t recall there ever being much of an ‘outside’ to play in.
Whether it was a strip mall in rural Ohio or an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, it didn’t matter that land was being destroyed or that air was being polluted (or that Gen Z would be making minimum wage and combating global warming for the rest of their lives), all was okay in the pursuit for money.
We took to social media because it allowed us the creative freedom to build a world that is entirely our own. The digital realm is our way of escaping the physical one we inherited and connecting with others to overcome the unique challenges our generation faces.
However, it wasn’t until a global pandemic sent us all into isolation that it really grew into the ecosystem we have today.
😷 The Covid-19 Pandemic
The pandemic was a catalyst for change, both for Gen Z and social networking platforms. Prior to stay-at-home orders, we simply didn’t have the time or agency to engage with social media at the rate we do now.
Gen Z is a generation disproportionately affected by the pandemic, as we’ve spent some of the most pivotal moments of our lives stuck at home, isolated from our friends.
When classes went online, we not only missed out on ‘the typical college experience’, but many realized a degree in this economy doesn’t guarantee a job, and the same education costing us a lifetime of debt was free on Youtube.
To make matters worse, Gen Z workers saw a 24.4% unemployment rate in the spring of 2020.
As a society we were collectively depressed and isolated, however, Gen Z used this increase in free time as an opportunity to create and consume more content than ever before.
And it wasn’t just beneficial for our mental health, it was good for social media giants too. In 2021, TikTok had 1 billion monthly active users (roughly 47% who are Gen Z alone) and generated almost $4.6 billion in revenue (a 142% YOY increase).
This explosion in activity opened more doors than ever before. When the stimulus money ran out, we didn’t have to go back to Subway. We became our own CEOs with communities of people who were willing to support us. At the same time, brands were noticing the influence that creators had on buying decisions so they moved their marketing money to the economy and began investing in creators too.
Today, 2 million people around the globe make a living by posting on social media, and that number is only expected to grow.
🎨 Entering a New Era
As we collectively emerge from the dark ages of a pandemic, we will be entering a new era of entrepreneurship driven by the behaviors of Gen Z and characterized by internet-based work, creative expression, and global economic opportunities.
As a diverse, progressive, and digitally adept generation, we have the power and tools to shape our own future and as we assume a more predominant presence in the economy, change is inevitable.