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Where do GenZ find sense of community?

Where are young people today finding a sense of community? We asked these isolated generations…

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a lonely and isolating year for young people. The YPulse State of Mind trend research found that much of their mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic—especially Gen Z. As they’ve felt cut off from their friends and social circles, YPulse found that Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to say that they’ve felt detached from personal relationships in the last year, and over half (53%) say they have felt lonelier because of COVID-19. Arguably during this time the communities they feel connected to have become more important than ever before. 


YPulse’s research shows that the majority (69%) of young consumers feel the communities they are a part of are a big part of their identity. When we ask about the benefits that their communities give them, a sense of belonging, confidence / self-esteem, advice, and stress relief are their top responses. So where are they finding those benefits now?  

Outside of friends and family, where do you find your sense of community?

Experts DeCode Gen Z

Climate anxiety

The cold, hard truth about climate change and its impact has not been lost on many Gen Z’ers and it’s influencing the brands they support and the items they buy.

“We feel like we have the world on our shoulders as far as issues like climate change go,” says Andy McCune, cofounder of Unfold. “Other generations have neglected this and passed this onto us. When we make purchasing decisions, sustainability is very important to us,” adds McCune, whose mobile design tool kit firm was recently acquired by Squarespace.  "Gen Z will go with the most sustainable and efficient brand that’s most aligned with their own brand,” notes Zhong.  For Gen Z’ers, the idea of sustainability isn’t just limited to eco-consciousness; it extends to a more general longing for things that endure, according to Drake Austin Rehfeld. “Gen Z cares about purchasing things that last and that matter and have a story behind them that they can relate to as well. It’s thinking through the mindset of what this means for a lasting planet and… for a lasting collection of my own.” 

Virtually omnipresent

So connected are Gen Z’ers to their technology, almost 24/7, they appear to be nearly always online, virtually omnipresent.  “Having information be readily available and be able to consume it at all times makes Gen Z very savvy with what things are happening, and knowing and forming judgments about something,”   While some people have mistakenly characterized Gen Z’ers as having short attention spans, they are just swiftly discerning what’s genuine “It’s their BS meter.” Their biggest turnoffs are things that are fake, inauthentic, corny or trying too hard.” GenZ's desire to filter out what’s phony to its openness to cancel culture: Gen Z is quick to pass judgments because “we understand the opportunity cost of media.”  In other words, don’t waste their time and don’t try to deceive them, he adds.

The Amazon Prime (Now) generation

Gen Z’ers have been growing up in an online world of such wide-ranging e-commerce opportunities, they are accustomed to receiving instant gratification in ways not experienced by preceding generations. They are the Amazon Prime now generation: they are used to overnight shipping for free; live chat for customer support; getting things now.

Platform fluency

Marketers need to do more than merely meet Gen Z’ers on the social platforms they use every day. To really reach them, companies need to learn how to speak the language of each platform and personalize the messaging.  Obviously, companies that are serious about their desire to communicate with Gen Z’ers should be using Instagram and TikTok, she maintains.  TikTok is especially relevant to Gen Z because it’s quick to use and the platform invites Gen Z’ers to pursue their desires to be entrepreneurs or influencers.

Respect for the hustle

And the entrepreneurial spirit that can be found among many Gen Z’ers is informing their desire to become influencers and creators.  Critical for brands targeting GenZs to establish relationships with these macro, mid and micro "infuencers."  People who might have 2,000 followers are influencers are strongly influencing their own communities.  A company working with one of these micro-influencers might be more powerful than working with the influencer who has the most followers on Instagram.

The more specialized the content, the more Gen Z’ers will appreciate it in many cases. For every subject and niche, there’s a subject master for it and people will start producing content at scale in those niches and we're seeing the line between influencer and celebrity is extremely blurred.

 Source: Digiday, March 2021,  Deanna Ting 


Source: YPulse, April 19, 2021

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Gen Z is Here:

The most diverse, vocal, connected generation

This generation, now up to age 24 years old, is the most diverse in modern U.S. history. They are vocal, dramatically more connected than any previous generation, and have had a smartphone earlier than any previous generation. They are bringing a new set of priorities, expectations, and norms as - all of which will shape our shared future. 

This rapidly emerging generation doesn’t remember a time before the internet. In fact, they tell us that the 1990s is vintage. Many don’t recall a time before smartphones, and our research shows they often trust social media influencers more than traditional experts or news outlets.  Gen Z does not remember 9/11, the generation-defining moment for millennials—which for Gen Z has always been history.  Below are seven of the Gen Z trends:


Trend 1: Gen Z hit harder than any other generation in the workforce during COVID-19

In the Solving the Remote Work Challenge Across Generations study, during the summer of 2020 almost half (45%) of Generation Z have seen their work hours decreased, over one-third (37%) are not able to work or get paid, and over one-fourth (26%) have filed for unemployment in the past 30 days. What’s more, 25% of Gen Z feel that they will be worse off when the pandemic is over.


Compared with millennials, Generation X, and baby boomers, Gen Z was the most likely generation to lose their job, have a reduction in hours and pay, and to be reassigned to a job they were not hired to do. In sum, they were the most economically affected generation in the workforce on a percentage basis. This was due to a variety of factors from the industries in which they worked—such as hospitality and retail—to the unfortunate ‘last hired, first fired’ mantra of old. Gen Z will carry this challenging workforce scar with them as they tell us they are looking now for stability, benefits, and flexibility of work hours and style in addition to compensation.


Trend 2: Education has been upended for Gen Z and so have their education plans

 40% of Gen Z is actively reconsidering their college plan. In fact, of older Gen Z, 40% were reconsidering their entire career path. This is a large percentage of the generation to be completely reconsidering not only their educational pathway but the entire career they intend to pursue as they venture further into adulthood. There will clearly be colleges and careers that emerge as the winners, and they will benefit from this generation’s talent for years and even decades ahead, while others will struggle to attract the next generation of talent.

Trend 3: A majority of Gen Z believes in Universal Basic Income—a big change even from millennials

Gen Z was the generation where a majority  (58%) believe in Universal Basic Income (UBI), meaning providing all Americans with a livable amount of money. This is a big shift from previous generations. This belief in a universal basic income has affected everything from how Gen Z views the role and responsibility of government to the idea that everyone deserves a basic income to be able to sustain themselves. The implications of this on both government responsibilities and politics in general could be very long-lasting.


Trend 4: Gen Z will put tremendous pressure on brands to take action on social causes

 For the last several years, the most important social cause to Gen Z has been combating climate change or protecting the environment. However, this year our research revealed a rapid shift where racial equality and social justice jumped to the top spot. It’s not a coincidence that the social justice rallies and social media coverage have helped to galvanize many in the generation to make social justice their priority social cause as they emerge into adulthood. This trend looks likely to continue given the emotional connection to the generation and will have a big impact on brands, companies, and investing—such as environmental, social, and governance (ESG)—for decades to come.

Trend 5: Gen Z are very practical with their money, particularly given their age

Often, older generations assume the youngest generation is all about consumption and spending money—whether it was their own money or their parents’. While this may have been true in the past, Gen Z has come of age watching their parents and older siblings struggle through the Great Recession. Now they’ve seen COVID-19 decimate jobs, careers, savings, and small businesses.  Gen Z is much more focused on saving and getting a great value for the money they spend rather than spending frivolously. In fact, prior to the pandemic, Gen Z was saving for retirement much earlier than expected, accumulating emergency savings accounts on their favorite money-sharing app, and trying to determine how to graduate college with as little debt as possible. In addition, they were comparison shopping for the best deals and driving meaningful growth at thrift stores—all pre-pandemic.

Trend 6: When it comes to trust, Gen Z trusts health careworkers over government leaders

 When it comes to trusting leaders during the pandemic, Gen Z trusts health care workers significantly more than other types of leaders—from national and local government leaders to law enforcement. Specifically, since March 2020, Gen Z reported having the most confidence in health care workers of all leadership types tested (57%). Gen Z showed the least confidence in U.S. government leaders, state government leaders, and law-enforcement officials since the start of the pandemic (23%). 

Trend 7: Gen Z wants to make an impact on the world, starting now

Gen Z has consistently revealed a strong desire to make an impact on the world. We saw this in everything from their willingness to pay more for brands that fully and publicly support social causes to seeking to work for companies that have a commitment to equality and talent development. This new generation also believes they have the ability and responsibility to make the world a better place. In fact, we uncovered that 62% of Gen Z believe their generation will bring positive change to the world.

As we led numerous studies, what stood out to us was this generation’s belief in their power and ability to create change rather than waiting for others to do it for them. This generation brings a new and needed voice to a variety of issues, and they’re willing to express their voice—from TikTok to employer reviews and holding brands accountable.

As Gen Z further emerges their influence and impact on employers, spending, voting, and more will be amplified, so it’s never been more important to seek to understand and engage them now vs playing a challenging, expensive game of catch up later. Gen Z presents the once-in-a-generation opportunity to grow with and lock the huge potential of a new generation as they are poised to shape our shared future.

Source: Jason Dorsey, The Center for Generational Kinetics