Gen Z cannot think for themselves

Luna Infante, Contributor

As a generation, we have lost our ability to think for ourselves, our ability to form our own opinions and our confidence to feel safe vocalizing them. Our unlimited access to social media and the internet gives us the opportunity to take glimpses into people’s lives, experiences, stories and beliefs. Everyone’s opinions are being shouted at us from behind screens, and we do not dare disagree with favored views. We want to be in good standing with these people even though they are strangers, and nearly imaginary. This is because, as a generation, we have an emerging mentality of “us vs. them.” Gen Z has struggled to grasp that life is not so black and white.

Growing up with social media has had a lot of benefits: we can communicate with a broader scope of people, share our meaningful moments and find funny and relatable content to consume throughout the day. We also hold the answers to every little thing in the palm of our hands, right? We have access to everyone’s expertise in every subject, and every post on social media must be true. Especially if it comes from the most popular influencers and creators. My favorite YouTuber believes gun ownership should be illegal, and millions agree with them, so I agree with them too. If my favorite creator tells me a specific skincare product is bad for me, they must be right. As social media grows more popular, so does the amount of baseless nonsense being thrown out at young, impressionable minds. 

People now have the ability to express themselves in any way they would like online; however, this is not always a good thing. Often we feel like decisions are made for us and opinions are formed for us. Someone said something offensive a few years ago? I’m not allowed to like them anymore? Got it. As a generation, we feel ashamed to vocalize our opinions and our true thoughts because the majority of us have a fear of getting “canceled,” rejected and torn down. If it’s a choice between “us” and “them,” we all want to be on the good side. It is much easier to go along with what everyone else is saying rather than to take time to create our own educated opinions. As a generation, this makes us lazy because if we had actual confidence in our opinions, we would not have a problem with vocalizing them. But we do not because it is easier to be sheep in a flock and go along with what everyone else says and does. 

With more people having a voice on social media, misinformation is able to spawn and spread online. An example of this is the misinformation that surfaced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. People were coming up with absurd theories as to how the virus spread, people were trying to find cures, and this only fueled the stress and panic the pandemic was causing. Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT, conducted a study that found tweets containing false news are 70% more likely to be retweeted. This is due to the novelty news introduces, the wow factor. If something is new, we love it. Due to this, false information is constantly being consumed, creating unfounded opinions that are being publicly shared. Gen Z is more likely to fall into this cycle since we are on social media the most. So, how do we move forward?

Do not believe everything you see, do your research before hopping on the bandwagon, and know that putting your phone down once in a while will be good for you. We need to get better at forming our own opinions, or we will continue being a generation that lazily lives behind our screens, letting everyone else call the shots.