Youth In Pandemic: How Gen Z’s hope is guiding them in an uncertain present and future

When coronavirus struck, Generation Z’s last moments of youth and first steps into adulthood vanished.


Nailah Fisher
Associate Strategist Virtue

At 5:40 AM Sunday, I woke up overheated as chills swept down my upper torso. I coughed over and over, trying to get the dryness out of my throat. The past three days flashed through my mind as I tried to remember when I went outside and who or what did I touch. I never went back to bed; too paralyzed with panic as the uncertainty around my health kept me from leaving my room. 


The unknown is something that we’re all grappling with right now. And in this terribly unknown time where we preach about supporting each other, I couldn’t feel further apart from the world. As a Gen Z living in the age of coronavirus, there’s a perception that I’m the problem. And after reading multiple headlines like Young People Are Still Partying and It's Risking Lives', I can’t say this perception is untrue. However, I refuse to believe the feelings I felt that morning are a rarity among my age group.


Based on the behavior of the few, the general public believes Generation Z doesn’t care about the greater community. However, we at Virtue, the creative agency born from Vice, believe there is more to the story, so we set out to uncover it on our own. Recently, my colleagues at Vice Media Group conducted research looking at how young people around the world were truly feeling and behaving during this pandemic. 


Despite reports of young people partying, one Gen Z woman in Germany stated, “We are in this exceptional situation for a very long time. No social contracts, all plans are uncertain or canceled.” Not only are young people cancelling plans, but a staggering 88% believe they are doing everything they personally can to limit the spread of the virus; as feelings of uncertainty and fear shape their world. 


In fact, young people’s biggest fears don’t revolve around their own wellbeing, but those around them. 68% of Generation Z feels most anxious about a friend or family member getting the coronavirus. Moreover, they’re thinking about others outside of their personal relationships.  Quarantined at home, young people are raising money for nonprofits on Instagram to feed those in need and creating virtual tip jars for local service industry workers. Unlike this UK newspaper's sentiments calling this group “Generation Me” whose “selfish individualism [is] one of the most aggressive and incurable illnesses of the modern age,” Gen Z’s empathy for others is what guides them through this dystopia – 63% of them to be exact.


The truth is– my generation is young. And because of this, sometimes we don’t make the best choices. But our young age has also taught us that the world is bigger than our mistakes– and that we have the power to change both. From protesting gun violence in America to advocating for democracy in Asia, and becoming the unified voice against climate change all over the world, Generation Z has fought at the frontlines for the greater good. And our fight against coronavirus is no different. But we need some support. 


When coronavirus struck, Generation Z’s last moments of youth and first steps into adulthood vanished. The memories we’d waited years to make– like picking the perfect prom dress and walking onstage for graduation– are now dreams that we’ll never be able to fulfill.  The internships we worked hard for and the offer letters we rejoiced over feel like they never even existed. And I never would’ve thought that I’d spend my first week hired full-time in bed at my parent’s house because I couldn’t fathom handling a global pandemic alone in New York City. And I’m one of the lucky ones, as almost a third of young people have been disproportionately laid off from work. No wonder 47% of us are worried about our emotional health. 


Within days, our present and futures were stolen from us. Yet, we are still here doing everything we can to fight for and with the world. The short answer is because we care. And we know this virus has taken something, and someone, from every person on this planet. 

For us, your loss is our loss. Though we feel this loss on a mass scale, we also know that this grief will end and make room for a better tomorrow with half of the world believing coronavirus will have a positive impact on society. So, as we spend another day, week, or month inside, let’s choose to look at the glass half full; allowing hope to direct us through this time of uncertainty. Together.

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