For Baby Boomers, it was the personal computer; for Gen X, the World Wide Web; and for Millennials, the mobile technology explosion. Each of these generations saw their lives transformed by new technology. For Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012 — seemingly with smartphones in hand — there is a twist. Instead of a key wave of technology defining a generation, this first generation of actual digital natives is redefining technology.
Gen Z expects tech to be integrated in their daily lives in a way that’s different from any other generation before them. Why? Besides Gen Z, also known as Plurals, consider what else was born in 1997: Google (along with many other now-defunct search engines) and Netflix (then a DVD-rentals-by-mail service). Amazon went public that same year. By the mid-2000s, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Hulu and Instagram were beginning to disrupt consumption habits forever. None of these were new to this generation, they were just always there.
“With Plurals and technology, there’s almost no division,” says Jack Mackenzie, executive vice president of market research firm PSB. “I don’t even know if they think of it as technology. They just think of it as the way it is. It’s just ingrained into their minute-by-minute behaviors.”