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Tracing the Powerful Influence Of Gen Z Over The World

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Shraddha Chowdhury

“This generation will never understand how things are done.”

How often have each one of us heard someone older spew this very dialogue? The answer: a little too often. Over the years, researchers and popular media have labelled different generations with a variety of monikers. We’ve had baby boomers (loosely, ones born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (1950 to 1980), and millennials (1981 to 1996). But today, it’s the reign of Gen Z (1997 to 2012), a new group of multitalented and genre-bending up-and-comers, gaining ground to cultural ubiquity and defining pop culture.

Call them post-millennials, zoomers, iPad babies or the TikTok generation with short attention spans, Gen Z always has something to say. And when they do, the rest listen. Using their platforms with gigantic followings, they bond over glamour and fame as well as sensitive matters such as mental health and inclusivity. And in every realm, be it entertainment, business, sports or art, their influence is undeniable and remarkable, far more than the impact their preceding peer groups had — thanks in part to the advent of technology and the reach of social media. But what is it that makes them stand out and attract the spotlight?

Each age group, since they began to be defined, is characterised by events that made waves the world over. The very traits that inherently make them who they are were shaped by worldwide phenomena, besides progress and general developments in mindsets. A research paper by McKinsey explains that baby boomers were immersed in the consequences of World War II. Gen X had more going on for them, while millennials were born into an era of technological and economic advancements.

The zoomers of today haven’t been as lucky. Plagued by unfavourable political developments, growing environmental concerns, layoffs and, ironically, burnout amid the hustle culture, they’re bogged down by the circumstances of their time. However, they do have the power of the internet going for them, which brings with it a plethora of jobs and sources of revenue that didn’t exist not too long ago. This, in turn, gives them a reach that transcends borders, generations and cultural divides, making them the most powerful age group thus far.

Keeping aside their wokeism and the inherent need to be politically right at all times, Gen Z is preternaturally self-assured and unapologetically themselves. Dubbed the most iconoclastic, inclusive, politically motivated, fashion-forward and open-minded generation ever, this lot has cemented its position as youth icons, the ones leading the charge in terms of creative talent, political activism and fashion know-how — even if they are hell-bent on cancelling millennial favourites like skinny jeans.

Unlike the previous iterations, Gen Z cuts across any one sphere of influence, with its members shooting to fame through film, television, music, modelling, influencing and often a combination of many of these. And while not all of them are household names yet, their power is undeniable.

In entertainment, for instance, Zendaya is inarguably one of the most exciting talents to emerge from Generation Z, not only for acing every look and being the style icon of today — or the major blockbusters and shows she’s starred in — but also for advocating for women’s rights and racial equality.


Multiple Grammy-winners Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigues touched hearts and souls with tunes that eclipse age gaps, besides being relatable for their powerful convictions and outspoken concern for social justice.

Then there’s Kylie Jenner, one of the world’s youngest billionaires; supermodels Kendall Jenner and Kaia Gerber, some of the highest paid models across the globe; actors Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Tom Holland, Millie Bobby Brown and Noah Schnapp; and YouTuber Emma Chamberlain — all of whom have fans and haters alike glued to their every move, their likes and dislikes.

Beyond entertainment, leading the pack is 20-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg; tennis players Carlos Alcaraz (world no. 2) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (world no. 3); tech whiz Austin Russell; cryptocurrency master Ryan Breslow; real estate and tech expert Jonas Tressel; and fashion designer Jaffry Mallari.

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At home, we have the likes of Rohit Saraf, Janhvi, Khushi and Shanaya Kapoor, Ananya Panday, Suhana Khan, Ishaan Khatter and Sara Ali Khan in entertainment. In the business world, there are entrepreneurs such as Zepto Co- Founders Kaivalya Vohra and Aadit Palicha (the youngest members of Hurun India’s Rich List), Akhilendra Sahu (known as the ‘World’s Youngest Serial Entrepreneur), Divya Gandotra Tandon and Trishneet Arora.

Sports, too, is brimming with young, exciting talent, including cricketers Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Jessica Rodrigues; paralympic rifle shooter Avani Lekhara; and shuttler Unnati Hooda.

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A casual selfie from Kylie, Suhana or Ananya can start a new fashion trend. A recommendation from Eilish or Rodrigo can start an artist’s career. One tweet from Thunberg can cause a company’s market value to plummet... To the millions following them, these young minds aren’t just idols, but influencers in the truest sense who continually set and reset the cultural tone.

A quick online search pulls up numerous results that highlight the widespread hold of this young bunch that has its finger on the pulse of it all. True digital natives, they’ve been exposed to the internet and to social networks since their earliest ages and are hypercognitive, fusing their online and offline experiences with ease. This, in turn, has been instrumental in turning them into a potent influence on people of all ages and on the way they consume and relate to brands.

Advertisers and marketers realise that Gen Z are the majority driver of popular conversation today. They start trends, fuel campaigns and keep the memes flowing. They are loud, proud and unfiltered, qualities that brands covet to find a valuable place in the market and, thereby, connect with a wider audience.

On the flipside, though, one wrong move can get labels ‘cancelled’, so to speak. From movies and product drops to gaming, food and more, these TikTokers don’t shy away from calling out promotional content that appear tone deaf. Self-aware and clued into almost every cultural and societal dialogue, they are quick to spot fair- weather brands and gauge whether they are keeping up with the world.

They may have grown up staring at iPad screens, but Gen Zers have come to be known for sharing uncensored opinions and a little less for sugar coating. This is a generation that’s far from apathetic, is socially and politically engaged — traits they feel are integral to their identity — has learnt to stand up for causes they believe in and also mobilise themselves for better reach. Dialogue is their preferred means to resolve conflicts and make the world a better place to live in, and being pragmatic is their only way of being.

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On this front, take a look at Thunberg herself. Politicians fear her, for she doesn’t mince her words, and the youth look up to her for spearheading the fight against climate change. Wednesday star Jenna Ortega is also a passionate advocate for social causes like immigration and refugee rights, racism, and mental health awareness. Joshua Wong was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his vocal pro-democracy activism in Hong Kong. Londoner Amika George has been lobbying for free menstrual products for English school pupils from low-income families and also won an award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Plus,


Pakistani activist Hadiqa Bashir, from Malala Yousafzai’s hometown, has been advocating against child marriage. At home, Navya Naveli Nanda co-founded and spearheads a women’s health and wellness platform. Surat resident Khushi Chindaliya was recently appointed a regional ambassador for India by a UN environment programme. Actor Ananya Panday has spoken up against cyberbullying and Suhana Khan against colourism.

Love them or hate them, the unequivocal explosion of Gen Z is not a phenomenon we can escape today. They learn from the past, are the present and future combined, and worth every bit of adulation and attention they receive. We look forward to all that they have in store for us.

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s April 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!