In our lifetimes, we have seen the effects of 9/11, we have lived through the 2008 recession, weekly school shootings, racial injustice, the insurrection of the capitol, a pandemic and now we are witnessing a major war between Russia and Ukraine.
We have always arrived at the airport a few hours early to get through TSA. Recently, we have become accustomed to wearing masks, keeping our distance and getting tested to protect those around us. Now a war is occurring and we are having discussions about how the economy and trade will be impacted worldwide.
All of these topics are regular conversations we have because of major traumas our nation has faced. Even if they occurred before we were able to comprehend them, our parents and teachers teach us about them over and over again because it would be a disservice to the lives lost. But Gen Z has become numb to it.
We grew up watching news footage of the Twin Towers crumbling. In elementary school, we watched people jump out of a window to their death because it was faster than burning.
From an early age, we were taught how to handle active shooters, especially in schools. Turn off the lights, lock the door, put your phone on silent, sit in a corner and be quiet.
According to the Washington Post, as of March 28, the last school shooting was 66 days ago. More than 292,000 students have been impacted by shootings in 310 schools across the nation. These events are no longer rare and have lost their horrifying aspect.
Having multiple traumatic and major events occur back-to-back during our short lifetimes has desensitized us as a generation. The APA dictionary defines desensitization as “a reduction in emotional or physical reactivity to stimuli that is achieved by such means as deconditioning techniques.” Our generation is no longer affected by events that would typically be appalling.
There is no easy way to handle emotions after a traumatic event and our generation has been faced with no choice but to conceal the magnitude of the issue and continue our lives.
Every time a major event has occurred, Gen Z has taken to the internet and created memes, hashtags and jokes to cope with the burden of yet another traumatic event. Even if older generations see this as a poor coping mechanism, at least we are still attempting to process tragic events instead of ignoring them. We have lived our entire lives from one “world changing” event to the next and don’t expect it to change.