A popular image over the last four decades is one of young people abusing alcohol - 'pre-loading' and 'throwing up' at parties, on holidays and in our towns and cities on a Friday and Saturday night. But is this now an image of the past? The latest data tells us that more and more young people are turning their nose up at 'binge fests'. Friday nights in the pub are no longer their preferred option. 

Data on the sale of alcohol-free drinks (a growing market), has found that there is a dwindling interest in drinking alcohol and binge drinking with nearly a third of young people declaring they are teetotal and alcohol-free. This shift is beginning to impact across industries. In tourism, young people’s attitudes towards holiday destinations have changed over the last decade. They are less inclined to go on beach and party holidays and are more interested in picturesque city breaks, where they can have beautiful experiences and explore different cultures. Evidence of this is seen by the fact that the once popular holiday provider Club 18 – 30 was swapped out for ‘Cook’s Club’ in 2018, which uses culture and ‘vegan delights’ to appeal to Generation Z and young Millennials.

This interest in ‘vegan delights’ highlights yet another part of the culture shift brought about by Generation Z and young Millennials; alongside the desire for beauty and culture is also a need for an increased sense of morality. People are more aware than ever of the harm caused by our food industry to the environment and animal welfare, and so the number of people converting to a plant-based diet is rapidly increasing, particularly among young people. It has been estimated that a quarter of 18-24 year olds in Europe are vegan and so it comes as no surprise that Generation Z are predicted to make up a whopping 40% of all vegan consumers by 2020.

Complimenting the new health conscious and morally correct behaviours of Generation Zers and young Millennials is their increased fluidity. Their focus is on being moral and individualistic, so their lifestyle and consumer behaviours will change to fit this. Young people are more open to fluidity in both gender and sexuality, with them no longer using these ‘categories’ to define them as an individual. This is reflected in recent data which shows that only 66% of Generation Zers consider themselves as exclusively heterosexual compared with 71% of Millennials and 85% of Generation X.

So, what makes Generation Zers and young Millennials so different? Where did this major culture shift come from and how has it managed to spread so quickly? The answer is but a word – technology. Growing up with technology means that what is considered as normal differs from previous generations, particularly the watchful eye of social media. Technology and social media are great for connecting with people and sharing important information, but it’s terrible for privacy and keeping embarrassing moments as temporary blips. The constant surveillance provided by social media means that one embarrassing night can last forever, so the only way to escape this is to avoid over-drinking and doing something that may cause later regret.

Similarily, social media platforms such as Instagram are covered in impressive pictures of beautiful cities and landscapes which explore different cultures around the world. Posting picturesque holiday pictures online is the new social norm and as a result, young people place importance on the design of a trip and how photogenic it is. Culture impresses online, and so culture is what people seek.

And the vegan shift? Technology and social media documents everything, including the reality of our food industries. Recent years has seen an increase in the use of streaming services like Netflix, many of which host documentaries which explore the impact of the dairy, meat and egg industries on the environment and animal welfare. The revelations brought by technology make it harder to deny the brutal reality of where our products come from, and veganism is seen as the way to correct this.

And finally, gender fluidity. Online platforms and new technology provide ways to connect and experience new things more than ever before, and so every aspect of society is more open. This openness makes it harder to be one thing or the other and to choose between option A and option B. Instead, young people are more likely to choose the middle ground or not choose at all. 

Generation Z and young Millennials are so different in their key lifestyle behaviours than previous generations because they were brought up with technology as ‘the norm’. As such, this technology has had an impact on their culture and societal norms in a way that Generation X and the Baby Boomers couldn’t hope to understand. It has brought this major cultural shift which places great importance on health, culture, morals and fluidity. Generation Zers and young Millennials, coupled with technology, are changing the face of our society, and Generation Alpha won’t be far behind them…