Opinion | Gen Z was destined for nihilism

While dealing with issues boomers and Gen X created, Gen Z navigates mental illness and existential dread

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The term nihilism is rooted in the Latin word nihil, meaning “nothing.” And the word means  just that: the idea that life is meaningless or useless. Nihilism rejects all religious and moral principles.

Generation Z is the least religious generation yet, according to the Survey Center on American Life. More than one-third (34%) of Gen Z are religiously unaffiliated. They are also much more likely to identify as atheists or agnostics.

There is a glaring correlation between Gen Z being the least religious generation and also the most queer-identifying.

The number of Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender—or something other than heterosexual—has increased across all generations, likely because it has become more acceptable and common to identify as queer and/or outside of the gender binary.

Regardless, Gen Z is certainly the gayest population, with about 21% self-identifying as LGBT as of 2021, according to Gallup. However, if they were to poll the generation again, this percentage would be higher, without a doubt.

There’s an obvious trend here: Each generation becomes more and more religiously unaffiliated, queer and intelligent.

In a 2019 report, Pew Research Center said Gen Z is less likely to drop out of high school, more likely to enroll in college and have a college-educated parent than generations before. Gen Z is on track to be the best-educated generation, according to the data.

Being so highly educated comes with the pain of knowing what is happening in the world at all times. Gen Z has access to advanced technology, unlike previous generations, such as the big two: smartphones and social media.

Blissful ignorance is not an option for Gen Z. Being more educated and having access to media that connects one side of the world to the other, the generation is flooded with bad news every day, and that really takes a toll on one’s mental health.

Gen Z unsurprisingly has the worst mental health, which only worsened after the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 42% of the generation has been diagnosed with a mental illness of some kind, not factoring in those who do not have access to mental healthcare and cannot receive a diagnosis. Needless to say, a large majority of Gen Z is mentally ill.

And that is not our fault either. We were kind of destined for it with all that we have gone through.

This excessive knowledge, and poor mental health, have led to Gen Z being existential and nihilist.

People in Gen Z were born right around September 11, 2001. Whether you were a few years old or just born, the trauma of this generation started as soon as we entered the world.

Since then, Gen Z has witnessed the stock market crash of 2008, school shootings, Donald Trump’s presidency (and the damage that was done under his administration) and the COVID-19 pandemic, just to name a few.

It is no wonder that Gen Z lives with existential dread. When so many things happen growing up, and continue to happen in your adult years, there is a feeling of anxiety about the future. And that is where nihilism comes in. Gen Z is either overcome with fear about the future or doesn’t care at all because, in their minds, it doesn’t matter anyway.

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Nina is a senior communication major with a concentration in converged journalism and a certificate in global and intercultural communication. In her nearly four years on staff, Nina has written over 100 stories and staff editorials. She has won 32 national and state collegiate journalism awards during her time on staff. In her spare time, she enjoys watching documentaries and listening to music.

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