Stop telling gen Z to relax – we have to fix the mess left by your generation | Letters

Stop telling gen Z to relax – we have to fix the mess left by your generation

Readers respond to Zoe Williams’ commentary on risk-averse and goal-oriented young people

A teenage girl is sitting on her bed, looking unhappy.

The worst thing you can tell someone with anxiety to do is to relax and to not worry about it. As a 20-year-old student, I find Zoe Williams’ article patronising (Why generation Z should give up striving to be their best selves, 19 August). She’s applying her own experience of youth to our situation, implying we’re doing youthhood “wrong”. The reality is that we’re doing our best. I know plenty of people who let their hair down by taking drugs, drinking and smoking, but a lot of the time they’re doing it to stave off the anxiety of external and internal pressures.

As someone who has experienced sexual assault and tumultuous mental health, I find the idea that I should just get pissed and go make some mistakes “so regrettable that you’re still laughing in shame 30 years later” insulting. I’m sure there were people of Williams’ age who were self-aware and also scared of the future, but this is the case for most of my peers now. We’re scared of what generation X and the baby boomers have done to our planet and society, and we’re the ones who have to fix it.

And we do try to relax. We socialise in ways that are foreign to older people, taking on crafts and side projects, and some of us do spend an evening a week at the pub. But we can’t “just relax” – it’s never been that simple.
Name and address supplied

Zoe Williams rightly accuses generation Z of being “risk averse”. However, she neglects the crucial question: why? As a result, she conflates the symptoms with the cause; the erosion of risk-taking, creeping isolation and the individualism of self-help lifestyles are not isolated phenomena that will be solved by articles promoting a “just loosen up” message.

Social historians of the distant future will surely recognise that generation Z grew up riding the most substantial wave of technological change in recorded history. Our epitaph will surely mention that we were the subjects of an experiment – a project wherein the sleepless machine of social media consumed and filled every aspect of our lives. And all this change amid a climate of economic precariousness, austerity and intense globalisation. But hey, just loosen up!
Jude Wilkinson
University of Warwick

Zoe Williams’ article keeps veering on to booze, as though drunkenness equates to fun and freedom. I don’t drink; I never have because I don’t like the taste. It never stopped me doing some crazy things in my youth, skinny dipping at unexpected moments, and making some appalling and embarrassing errors. Yes, try to encourage generation Z to “get out there”, but do they need alcohol to do it? Or is that just the perception of baby boomers and generation X (of which I am a member – just)?
Alison Carter
Lindfield, West Sussex

From my baby boomer perspective, Zoe Williams gets it wrong with her critique of generation Z, saying they should give up striving to be their best selves. A defining characteristic of boomers was our belief that we could make the world a better place.

The good things in life don’t have to start in a pub. They often started in a boring room with a bunch of women making one another roar with laughter as they told tales of life in a sexist society. Or with a group of fell walkers, energetically disagreeing across the political spectrum. Or on an international work camp. Or on a CND march.

My message to generation Z is: do it your way – you can’t make a bigger mess than your elders have.
Daphne Sanders