As members of Generation Z emerge, journalists and scholars may want to describe the next generation as the “Friend Generation.” Generation Z’s obsession with Facebook, Google+ and other social media platforms, results not only in “more” friends, but also accelerates the next generation becoming “better” friends. Here is why:
Acceptance: Social media creates transparency between classmates. The varsity quarterback is more than a jock, but an athlete with an affinity for guitar, a little sister with special needs, and grandparents on his mother’s side from Korea. His neighbor in homeroom is more than a Goth, but a talented teenage writer whose posts are the most-read female romance microblog in the county. The quarterback’s little sister follows the author’s posts, and she discovered the microblog after her brother shared an entry with friends on his Wall.
Affirmation: An eclectic transfer student seeks acceptance from her classmates, but she is not welcomed at her new school. Social media provides tools to create online communities and empower those not of the majority. These affinity groups may be related to culture, gender, class or interests. As a result of these virtual connections, the adolescent anxiety of isolation may be curbed with each “like,” “retweet” and “share.”
Access: Information is power in locker rooms, carpools and cafeterias. When students check-in via Foursquare, create events through Facebook or post pictures on Flickr, information becomes democratized. By sharing this content with their social network, students invite more classmates to social events, extracurricular activities and community service opportunities.
Because acceptance, affirmation and access are themes integrated into the virtual lives of students, the next generation of students certainly will become the “Friend Generation.”