June 1

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With no role models, Gen Zers are facing a quarter-life crisis

As the oldest members of Generation Z step into adulthood, they face a unique set of challenges that is popularising the term “quarter-life crisis”. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z is grappling with a variety of issues that are parked under adulting, leaving them to feel unnerved and unmoored. But is this mere melodrama? Or is there more to their struggle than what meets the eye?

The quarter-life crisis is the younger sibling of the mid-life crisis, as young adults strive to form an identity of their own while entering adulthood. The quarter-life crisis typically occurs in the mid to late 20’s and early 30’s, hence the term “quarter-life”. It encapsulates the issues young adults are facing as they transition from early adulthood to more independent and career-focused stages of life. Unlike the mid-life crisis which centers around a broader reflection on the course of one’s life and reassessment of personal and professional achievements, the quarter-life crisis revolves around challenges and uncertainties young adults face. There are multiple contributors to the quarter-life crisis, such as transitions from student to working adult, career uncertainty, financial pressures as well as feeling overwhelmed by adult responsibilities. 

According to NTUC’s Youth Taskforce Report 2023, the youths of today have faced multiple crises, including the 2008-2009 Great Recession as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic. These crises have made an indelible mark on their priorities and perspectives in both their personal and professional lives. It has changed their ways of looking at success. As much as they no longer want to equate success with conventional milestones such as having a stable career path, getting married, and buying a house, the mere act of comparing oneself to their peers who are checking off those conventional milestones can lead to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. Couple it with what they see on social media, and they feel what is now known as insta-envy. Insta-envy refers to the feelings of jealousy or resentment triggered by viewing carefully curated and seemingly perfect posts on social media. These may include pictures and reels of travel, lifestyle and milestone accomplishments. 

Dream Job

With the uncertain job market, their worries on securing a job in the future contribute to their anxiety. The youths of today find themselves caught in a tug of war, torn between the desire to break free from conventional norms and the anxiety that accompanies venturing into uncharted territory. On one hand, they yearn to forge a path of their own, untethered from traditional expectations and societal conventions. 

They seek to redefine success on their terms, embracing individuality and authenticity.Yet, as they embark on this journey of self-discovery and personal growth, an inner struggle ensues. The uncertainty of the uncharted path breeds anxiety, and the fear of veering away from the familiar engulfs them. They grapple with questions like, “Am I making the right choices?” and “What if I fail?” The pressure to conform to the expectations of others and society adds weight to their decision-making process.

In this delicate balance between anxiety and autonomy, the youths strive to find a sense of purpose and meaning. They yearn to create their unique identity, unburdened by the weight of conventionality. However, embracing the unknown and detaching from the known can be a daunting endeavour, giving rise to conflicting emotions.

This has led to a wider acceptance of the portfolio career, an arrangement where individuals pursue multiple sources of income and diverse professional activities instead of the traditional single full-time job with one employer. In a portfolio career, individuals engage in a variety of part-time, freelance, contract, or project-based work in different industries and sectors. The changing work preferences of youths in terms of a flexible work-life balance, control over career paths and the ability to explore diverse interests has helped the portfolio career gain popularity in recent years. While this fuels their need for instant gratification, it forces them to put a back seat on other conventional milestones like settling down and buying their first property.

Marriage

Young adults are delaying marriage to devote time for their career and education. Establishing themselves professionally and financially is a key priority before they even take the next step. The cost of living can be a significant deterrent to getting married early, as young adults may feel financially unprepared for such a commitment. Moreover, the portrayal of idealised relationships in social media platforms can create unrealistic expectations that make it challenging to find the “ideal partner”. Well, can we blame them? 

Dating apps today often encourage quick judgements based on appearance, leading to a superficial dating culture where people are easily dismissed or overlooked based on appearance alone. To add on to that, the abundance of dating app options can often lead to decision fatigue and a constant search for someone better, making it challenging to form meaningful connections. Some dating apps are also associated with the hookup culture, which makes it even harder to for those seeking meaningful connections with like-minded individuals. 

Digital interactions today have made it easier for youths to avoid confrontation by ghosting (suddenly cutting off communication) instead of having difficult conversations. It occurs when someone stops responding to messages, calls, or any form of communication without offering an explanation or closure. The person who is ghosted is left without any indication of why the communication has abruptly ended, leading to feelings of confusion, hurt, and rejection. With dating apps, it is easier for someone to disappear without accountability.Ghosting can leave the person on the receiving end feeling emotionally vulnerable, as they are left wondering what went wrong or if they did something to cause the sudden disconnect. 

The dating scene has also created what is now known as ‘Blue Tick Anxiety’. It is a term used to describe the stress and anxiety that can arise from knowing that someone has read your message (indicated by the “seen” or “read” notification) but hasn’t responded. This phenomenon is prevalent in messaging apps and social media platforms where read receipts are enabled, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Instagram. In a dating context, blue tick anxiety can lead to overthinking and heightened sensitivity to perceived disinterest or rejection. When someone sees that their message has been read but doesn’t receive a response, they may start to question why the person hasn’t replied. This can trigger feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and a desire for validation.

The dynamics of romantic relationships have evolved and young adults are seeking more egalitarian partnerships where responsibilities and decision-making are shared equally. However, these issues reflect the challenges of navigating modern dating dynamics, where digital communication amplifies feelings of rejection and disconnection. 

Buying their first home

With the recent spike in property prices, young adults are also stressed out in terms of finances when it comes to buying their first property or renting a place to live. The rising prices make it challenging for young adults to afford a downpayment for their first home. Many young adults struggle to save enough money due to high living expenses and low starting salaries. Building a substantial savings account takes time and discipline. Moreover, with more youths embracing a portfolio career these days, the unpredictability of income which varies from month to month makes it challenging for youths to meet the consistent financial requirements of renting or securing a mortgage. Financial institutions often prefer borrowers with stable and predictable income sources, which adds to the stress that young adults experience. 

Conclusion

The quarter-life crisis is a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon that stems from the unique challenges and uncertainties faced by today’s young adults. As the oldest members of Generation Z, they navigate the choppy waters of adulthood while grappling with issues related to career, relationships, and personal identity. The changing landscape of work preferences, digital communication, and societal expectations has contributed to the rise of the portfolio career, delayed marriages, and shifting attitudes towards homeownership.

As a society, we can support young adults through the quarter-life crisis by fostering a culture of empathy, understanding, and open communication. Encouraging conversations about career aspirations, relationship expectations, and financial planning can provide much-needed support and guidance during this transformative period. Additionally, promoting mental health awareness and resources can help young adults navigate the emotional challenges that come with the quarter-life crisis. Ultimately, the quarter-life crisis presents an opportunity for personal growth, resilience, and empowerment. By acknowledging and addressing the unique challenges faced by today’s young adults, we can collectively create a more inclusive and supportive environment for the next generation as they navigate the uncertainties and possibilities of adulthood.


Tags

Gen Z, Understanding Gen Z


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