Generation Z: An exercise in telling the truth

New-Millennials. Naughties Babies. Generation Z. Who are the people born in the twenty-first century?

My oral history project idea takes place in 2040. I’m interested in interviewing 100 30-40 year olds about their life story so far. What’s been their experience of growing up in the new millennium? How has social media, a platform for shaping your own life story on a daily basis, influenced their ability to reflect on their life honestly?

Generation Z have grown-up at a time where online image is key. Teenage girls are crying in school nurses’ offices about their Facebook profile picture and 10 year olds are fighting over Instagram. Smart phones are nondescript. Put your hand in your pocket and take out a communication device which will snap a photo of your lunch, roll out your emails instantaneously and let you call your best friend all at the same time. Never switch it off. You need to know just what your friends are posting online at 1am, and then it’s your alarm at 6.55am. And then 7. And then 7.05… That hazy light might pollute the darkness of your room for hours afterwards, infiltrating your quality of sleep, but it was worth it to know what X wrote on Y’s new profile picture, wasn’t it?

That’s 2016. But how will these youngsters feel in their 30s and 40s? Oral history provides an accessible platform for expressing your life honestly, reflecting on past experiences. After a youth spent shaping the presentation of your life to others, creating an online ‘persona’ instead of just being you, how will Generation Z fare when given the opportunity to tell the real truth in an interview with a person they’ve only met once or twice?

I’m not really sure at this point. The beauty of oral history is that it is a chance to give voice to those who have been part of an experience, without needing to have some arbitrary existing record as ‘the great and the good’ connected to an aspect of history which has been politically chosen to be remembered for some notion or other. With oral history, power goes back to the people at the core of history as it happens. Everyday is history and we each create and hold our own history. Oral history is ideal for capturing living history. For a generation who have grown up talking about themselves online, it will be fascinating to find out what they have to say in person.



One Comment on “Generation Z: An exercise in telling the truth”

  1. Graham Smith says:

    Interesting idea, although keeping a diary isn’t new. It is updating a biographical record in public that is, I think. Might people’s on-line personas are likely to be different from their how they represent themselves elsewhere? In any case oral history is less about historical recreations of the past than the meaning people ascribe to their histories via memory. Unsure what you meant by ‘honesty’ – unless you believe in an authentic, essential self? Categorizing blog entries is really useful BTW…

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