Throwing Shade @Salty Ceebs
Communicating with Gen Z just got easier. Lit
Do you know salty from throwing shade, ceebs from lit? If you don’t, you probably are not part of Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2009).
“They’re creating a lexicon faster than what we can keep up with,” reports Claire Madden, author of Hello Gen Z, a new book aimed at helping business leaders, parents and educators to communicate more effectively with Gen Z.
“Full stops are for when you are angry or annoyed with someone.” – Tamar Selwood
New words such as “ceebs”, or unspoken rules about texting, are just some of the communication idiosyncracies Claire encountered as she spent a year interviewing and researching Gen Zs. Claire is a demographer and social commentator who has appeared on The Today Show, The Project and The Drum. She wanted “to hear what was really going on behind the scenes, or behind the screens you could say, of this generation.
“They are growing up in a world that looks really quite different to even the previous generation. I wanted to peel back the layers, listen and hear how they see the world – their perspectives, motivations, their challenges – and put that into a book.”
Tamar Selwood is an 18-year-old from western Sydney who recently finished the HSC and is looking to get into a social media degree next year. A Christian teen who wants her faith to shape how she lives in all she does, Tamar agrees that her generation communicates in distinct ways [see video above]. For example, she totally understands the unwritten rules of texting that Claire lists in Hello Gen Z. “Full stops are for when you are angry or annoyed with someone,” confirms Tamar about how bad it is to use a full stop in a text message. “You finish your text with a ‘K’ and that dot [full stop] and it puts a whole downer on the entire conversation.”
Claire encourages generational engagement and believes those who are older than Gen Z could try harder to listen and learn from them. “I think that we can be quick, as older generations, to dismiss or make quick judgments about this generation. We can think, ‘Oh, they are always on their phones … and they are disengaged from real life. Are they apathetic?’ What I found is, that’s not true. They are a very passionate generation and they are so willing to contribute.”
“Wellbeing [of Gen Z] was the area of the research which had the biggest impact.” – Claire Madden
While Tamar agrees, she also stresses that relating across generations is a two-way street. “Listening to us is great, but also Gen Zs should listen too. I think there is so much wisdom from the older generations that we can both learn off each other. That is an important thing about communicating – it’s not just for one generation to do all the talking.”
According to Claire’s research, Gen Z people spend an average of nearly three hours a day connected to social media. Claire found many of the 100 Gen Z people she interviewed felt a need to be near their phones as if they had the “need to breathe oxygen.”
“It’s the first thing I do when I get up in the morning,” says Tamar, who only started using social media at high school. “I grab my phone and I’m checking all my notifications. I’m checking Facebook and Instagram. I also find that throughout the day I’m checking my different platforms to see what is actually going on in the world – not just between my friends and the community around me but worldwide – to see what impacts me and what interests me.”
Aside from communication styles and approaches, Hello Gen Z also investigates aspects of the wellbeing of Gen Z – from social to the relational, from mental and physical to financial and spiritual. “Wellbeing was the area of the research which had the biggest impact on me as a researcher,” says Claire. She was struck by one young woman, born in 1999 like Tamar, who described the wellbeing of her generation as: “mentally unstable, emotionally broken; we are spiritually vacant and we’re physically torn but we are still pretending everything is picture perfect.”
“One young guy said to me that his generation, spiritually, are the poorest people on the planet.” – Claire Madden
Gen Z is skilled at expressing things on social media, getting followers and projecting a specific image of their lives. But such attention to the superficial can cause stress, and not steer Gen Z to digging beneath the surface. “The question around spirituality – some just said it is so different to our parent’s generation. One young guy said to me that his generation, spiritually, are the poorest people on the planet.”
Tamar agrees that Generation Z is spiritually vacant. “Very much so. With the world that we live in now, some people don’t value spirituality as much as what previous generations have. And, so, that is also evident throughout social media. Sometimes, this generation, we don’t really post about spirituality. Instead, we actually take on everything else – all the worldly things – because that can be seen to get more likes and followers.”
Given Tamar is a member of Gen Z and a Christian, does she believe that causes her to take a distinct approach to her online communication? “For me personally, it’s about who I am following and what I am allowing myself to see.
“Often I find that there are things that pop up on my Facebook feed and I go, ‘No, I’m not OK with this. I don’t want to see this as a Christian girl.’
“Often, I will unfollow or block or I’ll set up parameters on my phone to stop me from seeing it. Just to protect myself but I also I know that, as a Christian woman, I shouldn’t be seeing or reading that.”