8 Min. Read

The Creator Class Persists

Gen Zs are now officially in the unenviable position of coming of age during a recession. They’re not the first: Millennials weathered the 2008 financial crisis by moving back in with their parents in droves — and a similar reality will likely hold true for Zs. Yet even as Zs are soliciting Venmo donations to cover their rent, they’re exhibiting the resilience and creativity that’s come to define them.

Bless This Break

Seasoned do-it-yourselfers and entrepreneurs, some Zs said their newfound downtime feels like a blessing in disguise. I’ve always had a go, go, go’ attitude and booked myself a week in advance. This time is giving our generation a chance to reset and take time for ourselves,” reflected Jamie, 22, in New Jersey. Reset” is a word we’re hearing again and again from Zs, who are using self-isolation to focus on things they don’t usually have time for.

I want to use this time to focus on myself and come out as a stronger, healthier and happier individual,” said Emily, 19, in Wahoo, NE, who said she’s investing in her mental, physical and spiritual health right now by eating clean, working out and journaling. Andrew, 22, in Minneapolis has been asking himself, How can I use this time to focus on my own personal growth?” Personal growth during quarantine has historic precedence, as it turns out; as one viral tweet explained, When Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear.” It’s true. Historians believe Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra during plague-times when London playhouses were all closed. What will be Gen Zs coronavirus-inspired masterworks?

Creative Boom

Self-isolation is already proving to be a creative boom time for many Gen Zs. Young creatives, who had been treating closures like snow days in its first weeks, are now finally coming to realize the massive toll it will have in the months and years to come, especially on their incomes. We’ve seen many Zs shift their vibe from everyday is Sunday” to productive powerhouses. I am determined to use this time in quarantine to learn some new skills and focus on my future,” said Ashlee, 17, in Dallas, TX.

Gen Z creatives are updating their portfolio sites and reels; picking up new skills via Skillshare, Masterclass, YouTube University and TikTok tutorials; and downloading free software that they couldn’t afford before but is now being offered for free, like Adobe Creative Cloud. Many Zs are picking up projects that have a throwback homesteader quality, such as needlepoint, sewing and distractibaking” with their own sourdough starters. They’re feeding their minds too by logging into online college courses they hadn’t prioritized before, such as Machine Learning for Data Science and Analytics from Columbia University; The Science of Well-Being from Yale; and Gamification from the University of Pennsylvania.

Already, we’re seeing their creative output boom. There’s been an explosion of new music (see rona raps) and thousands of new social media memes. Seventeen-year-old self-taught computer whiz, Avi Schiffmann, built a website that uses web scraping technology to accurately report on the pandemic, while combating misinformation. Two Yale computer science majors created Love Over Zoom, an online game where they match any college student across the country with either a new friend” or blind date” to connect with over Zoom. In less than two days, over 2,200 college students signed up to participate. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Davis in Los Angeles, told us he’s been painting, making period films and learning to code through an online Harvard course. Compare this with the lockdown experience of folks in China’s Hubei province, where the search term boring” grew by over 600% in January on the social media site Weibo.

This creative explosion isn’t just about combating the boredom of downtime, it’s also about catharsis. I started my own website and I want to write and share things that maybe don’t belong on social media,” said Aaron, 24, in Tempe, AZ. Like many of us, Aaron said he’s looking for distraction as well as a means to process what’s happening in the world. King, 21, in Houston is on the same page, If I worry, I’ll only bring myself down, so I’m using this time to find more things that make me happy.”

Gen Zs are also taking this opportunity to reflect on and reassess their income streams, especially as their day gigs dry up. Many Zs are setting up Patreon accounts for their creative endeavors. Instagram models who had been putting out content for free to the masses, have turned to the paywall-for-paycheck subscription content app, Only Fans, to earn an income from their photos. Other Gen Zs tell us they’re using this time to finally read up on the stock market and load funds onto free trading apps, such as Acorns and Robinhood, since the barrier to investing has virtually fallen away.

Competitive Edge

While it’s too soon to tell, there might be a long-term payoff to this coronavirus-imposed creative retreat for Gen Zs. Some teens and twentysomethings said they believe this crisis could provide them with a competitive advantage over older generations. Before the pandemic, Gen Zs were already creative tech-savvy cultural mix-masters — now they’re that, plus they’re armed with new knowledge, skills, software and, of course, the potent power of Zoom. Perhaps most importantly, Zs will likely grow up fast after this. We saw Millennials adopt a more serious worldview after 9/11, focusing on more sincere hobbies and interests, and Gen Zs are likely to have a similar hard-knocks awakening.

What It Means

  • Gen Zs now have the downtime to play with, explore and learn to use creative tools. Give them access to creative software, IP, design tools — and make them free.
  • Let Z’s creativity and resilience inspire your own bold rebound. Empower your team to be proactive, and push forward to build a brighter future that is reflective of their new world and culture.
  • Zs are connecting with the idea of an overall reset.” Give them a blank slate from which to jump off from.
  • Help Zs get paid for their creative projects and skills. They’ll be looking for ways to get paid for content they used to give away for free.
  • Expect Zs to create and crave content that’s slightly more serious and sincere coming out of this. The world has changed, and so have they.