Gen Z, Get On Your Phone

Written by on September 17, 2023

It’s a bizarro, dystopian nightmare where everyone is forced to wear a chip so that the big bad whoever can track their location in real time. If you ask many Gen-Z people, that’s not such a bad thing.

Enter Apple, with Find My Friends, or Life 360. These are tracking apps. They’re like social media apps, only their gist is to use data and GPS to show you exactly where your friends are, where they’re going, and what they’re doing. Doing the customary 5 miles over the speed limit on 190 eastbound? You might get a call from a concerned friend (or maybe not. Definitely if your app is buggy and you appear to be doing 170 mph through a cornfield.)

To our more *ahem* matured readers, this is insane. Imagine willingly giving up your exact location at all times to even a handful of your friends? The bathrooms in a mall are in very specific locations – do you really want that girl you like to know that you spent twenty minutes ass-to-stall on some sketchy street meat? You want your husband to know you shopped at Victoria’s Secret with your friend, and now he’s expecting a bedtime reveal? The idea for older folk that the most personal, most invasive part of us, our very spot on this earth, should be available to our loved ones at all time, is kind of inconceivable. Privacy, where have you gone?

But to the Gen Z set, it’s safety. It’s connection. And it’s also about life, and I’ll explain. Gen Z is 11 – 26. The oldest of them were three when 9/11 hit. A now 18 year old Gen Z kid was born in ’05. One thing we lost very quickly after the 9/11 attacks was our privacy. The Patriot Act, NSA warrantless wiretaps – this all happened before most Gen Z kids were old enough to even understand what we had before then. They grew up in a world where the government tracked everything you did and there was nothing you could do about it. So why not have fun with it?

And they don’t just do it as a fun new social media thing. It’s not just about being connected with each other, and it’s certainly not some “Gen Z Challenge.” It’s safety. It’s used by a ton of families, which makes sense. But other safety issues.  Girls go out to a club, one goes home with a guy, her girlfriends know exactly where she is. Someone gets in a car wreck, Life 360 detects it, and sends a blast to everyone in the network.

It is also about connection and loneliness through. So the moral of the story? I don’t know. But the future is one with privacy as an abstract notion. And do you have freedom without privacy? And can we cry “kids these days” when we let those acts get passed?

Good questions.

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