Labels. We find them on cans of food, clothing tags, and our electronics. A label should theoretically be confined to a piece of material on a product that tells about said product, yet Gen Z still finds ways to label themselves. Gen Z likes to define themselves through style, such as finding an aesthetic like light/dark academia, cottagecore, kidcore, etc. Gen Z also likes to find things (seemingly) rooted in science, like astrology, and make decisions based on those things. While the idea of labels may seem confining, all of these labels and defining characteristics allow Gen Z to connect with others similar to them.
One popular type of label comes from astrology: zodiac signs. Zodiac signs are astrological signs that are based on constellations that mark out the path on which the sun appears to travel over the year. You determine your zodiac sign using your birthday, which shows the placement and the kind of the constellations. It’s not a new phenomenon, as astrology has been around since at least the 2nd century BC. Horoscopes–which are related to zodiac signs–are predictions made based on star patterns and movements, and many members of Gen Z rely on them to make decisions. In a study done by Fullscreen, a group of Gen Z members were surveyed. 43% said they would make a big life decision based around a horoscope or tarot card reading; 39% said in times of uncertainty and instability, they would rely on astrology; and 29% said that they believe astrology is rooted in science.
Beginning with millennials, personalization has become increasingly popular. You can personalize your skincare, hair products, and even clothes or makeup online. Being able to “personalize” your life experiences based on something that many of us feel connected to is fascinating and intriguing. Many large brands and companies are jumping on the astrology train as well. Twitter accounts, Instagram accounts, various astrology-dedicated apps, and even large news and entertainment companies, such as BuzzFeed, have seen the impact of the increasing belief in astrology. This increasing consumption of astrology content continues to impact how Gen Z makes decisions. It is appealing to many members of Gen Z because it offers a technical, “science-based” system that gives a sense of belonging. Understanding your birth chart may offer even more insight into who you are as a person, promising to give you something you might not know otherwise.
Another way Gen Z labels themselves is by defining their style, often characterized by the word “aesthetic”. An “aesthetic” is a particular way of looking, which can be applied to many things other than clothes. However, clothes are one big way that Gen Z expresses themselves and their personalities through. Popular clothing aesthetics include light/dark academia, cottagecore, kidcore, bohemian, etc. Particularly on TikTok, Gen Z is showing off their aesthetics and sharing with others aesthetics to inspire them. You can find required items for a particular clothing style, inspirational pictures and ideas, and even color palettes with just a simple search. Room tours are also popular, giving the watcher an insight into how other members of their generation creatively expresses themselves.
Personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (which can be found on 16personalities.com ) are also popular. It determines your preference based on 4 different dichotomies (Extraversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling, Judging vs. Perceiving) and groups you into 1 of the 16 personality types (INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP, INFJ, INFP, ENFJ, ENFP, ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ESFJ, ISTP, ISFP, ESTP, ESFP). It gives you insights on how you respond to situations, which can be especially helpful to Gen Z as they are all trying to make sense of themselves in the large scale of the world. In addition to the MBTI test, there are also many other personality tests available on Google.
So, why is Gen Z gravitating towards labels? The rise of individual expression and the desire to be “different” than others has led to a rise in the need to identify their interests, beliefs, style, etc. Straight TikTok vs Alt TikTok debates are consistent with that desire. Specifically in the summer of 2020, it was considered “weird” to be on straight Tiktok, categorized by dancing, lip syncing, and pov videos. Alt TikTok could be compared to the Vine-like side of TikTok, filled with chaotic humor, inside jokes, with the overwhelming absence of verified creators. Although this was seemingly a small divide that was only important on TikTok, it also brought up the idea that people with certain interests or certain looks or aesthetics were not as “cool” as those with opposite interests, looks, or aesthetics. Although these labels can sometimes be harmful, it’s important to recognize the positive side of labeling.
Labels also help Gen Z to feel connected with each other. Finding like-minded people who share the same interests, personality traits, or humor type helps Gen Z to become an open-minded, world focused generation, compared to the previous generation of millennials who seem to be invested in themselves. Millennials question the things around them, but Gen Z communicates amongst themselves in order to find answers, create dialogue, and even organize to promote change.
Gen Z has grown up in an environment where climate change, political hostility, and social justice movements are common and often forefront in priorities. With the overwhelming weight of the future of the earth on their shoulders, having labels to lean back on offers them a chance to connect with others. By labeling themselves into categories, they can find similar people with similar interests to help them bond, especially in a time of social distancing. It brings a sense of belonging to those who may not feel as though they belong. The internet has used labels to bring Gen Z together and unite them by a singular interest, trait, or even birthdate.
This article was written by Zenerations writer Adriana Layton.