The world as we know it has fundamentally and drastically changed.
The explosive nature of the internet might have exacerbated these modifications but society as a whole is now operating in a different way and at a different pace.
And at the forefront of all this is Generation Z – those individuals who were roughly born between 2000-2010 and are currently in their teenage or early adult lives. They might be young but this generation has already made profound changes in several aspects of society, including politics and the workplace.
In South Africa, Gen Z’s, as they are colloquially known, are referred to as “The Born Frees” because they are the first generation that have been born post-apartheid.
In a bid to provide insight into Generation Z’s, M-Net has this month premiered “Habits of Gen Z”. This in-depth docu-series takes a look at Gen Z’s lives, influences and aspirations as it looks to foster inter-generational dialogue and understanding.
Some of the topics covered include how these youngsters were raised by the internet as well as their identities, brands and sexual orientations.
It also includes a section titled, “Facing the Future”, which gives viewers a chance to witness first-hand how this generation is fearlessly taking a stand and leading the charge for a better world.
“Habits of Gen Z” director Jo Munnik explained on the M-Net website that it was important for the documentary to be multifaceted as she believed this was the most authentic way to give the audience – of all ages and from all walks of life – insight into this generation.
“We wanted to tackle really important social issues through the lens of different generations, with a strong focus on Gen Z.”
Munnik, who is also a journalist added that she and her team wanted to “take an intergenerational approach” with this documentary.
For this reason, those who feature on “Habits of Gen Z” are diverse and wide-ranging South African personalities.
They include thought leaders and disruptors such as Gen Z creator of “Constantia Mom” Cassidy Nicholson, TV host and entrepreneur Maps Maponyane, Gen Z transgender model and Ms South Africa’s first transgender semi-finalist Lehlogonolo Machaba as well as leading sexologist and intimacy trauma therapist, Dr Eve.
Meanwhile, iconic South African artist Penny Siopis, Gen Z activist and entrepreneur Mike Mpanya, writer, curator, and creative director Lindiwe Mngxitama, Gen Z culture journalist Casey Delport and actor Siv Ngesi also lend their voices to the documentary.
They are joined by economist, futurist and trends analyst Bronwyn Williams and Gen Z Afrikaans content creator, Aletta De Kock.
Munnik explained that she wanted to include prominent voices in the local Gen Z documentary that represented different generations, that were strong and were able to comment on the key aspects of the series. She also stressed that the documentary contributors should be authentic.
“I think authenticity is a key part of this series,” she explained. “We also wanted to meaningfully engage with issues around being raised by the internet, identity, sexploration, substances and the end of the world as we know it.”
The “Habits of Gen Z” director added that putting this documentary together was not just for entertainment purposes but also to educate viewers about the ever-changing world in a meaningful way.
Munnik believes that there is this idea that Gen Z’s are “a law unto themselves, that they are an intimidating generation and that the gap between them and even the previous generation – the millennials – is quite significant”.
“We decided very early on that we wanted to tackle important societal issues through the lens of different generations with a strong focus on Gen Z,” she explained.
“The reason we did that was because we wanted to look at social issues and show that perhaps we are not as different as we think we are.”
Munnik also believes that despite their youth, older generations can learn a lot from Gen Z’s.
“There are things about Gen Z that we can and should learn about that can perhaps make us better and stronger as a society and as a collective across all of the generations.”
And through “Habits of Gen Z”, its director hopes that the documentary can bring different generations together.
“I hope that in a way, this documentary will make us feel like we are closer together than we initially felt when we started watching it,” Munnik said.
“I also wanted to give the older generations a sense of what Gen Z is grappling with and what they are the pioneers of because what this generation is dealing with is unprecedented and as a society, I think we can better support each other.”
∎ Watch “Habits of Gen Z” on Thursdays on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) at 9pm.