THIS WEEK IN HOT GEN Z TRENDS: ALEXA, PLAY “CAMPUS” 

Week of September 12 

We’re sharing the biggest trends in Gen Z’s world this week. Want these trends sent directly to your inbox? Sign up for The Screenshot, our weekly Gen Z insights newsletter. 

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President Joe Biden recently announced his executive order to cancel large portions of the national student debt, currently around $1.75 trillion. This decision has an astounding impact on Gen Z and Millennial students and recent graduates. With college costs at an all-time high and federal aid at a modern low, young people have had to pay much larger portions of their income toward college costs. According to the College Board, a public four-year college costs 2.58 times its price in 1992, with private four-years 1.97 times its 1992 price tag. To further exacerbate the issue, in the past 10 years, the government has decreased the money allocated to federal grants by 32%, federal loans by 34%, and federal aid (like work-study) by 36%. These numbers, combined with a recession, inflation, and high rent, create a cocktail of financial despair for our generation. Biden’s plan is the first stepping stone in easing the monetary pressure on young people. 

With every new iPhone release comes a slew of online commentary. The September 7 “Far Out” event was no different. This past Wednesday, Apple released their iPhone 14 collection, three new Apple Watches, and AirPods Pro 2. The new technology is meant for extreme conditions; the iPhones can detect car crashes and connect to satellites in hard-to-reach places, while the Apple Watches can withstand large temperature variances and last for much longer. Of course, Gen Z had a lot to say about the devices. Social media users commented on the glitches old iPhones develop once a new edition releases. Others reacted to the high price tag and the similarity to previous iPhones. Samsung, Apple’s biggest competitor, clapped back in person and online, posting a billboard stating “Welcome to the party, Apple. We’ve been filming in 8K for 2 years, 6 months, 4 days, 21 minutes, and 51 seconds.” Their newest advertisement shows someone switching to a foldable Samsung phone from what appears to be an iPhone. Two things we know will always exist: Samsung and Apple beefing, and Gen Z meming on both of them. 

Did someone say Rory Gilmore? The passing of Labor Day marks the beginning of the school year for Zoomers in high school and university — and, of course, the trends that come along with it. This year, we’re going back to our roots: Disney movies. Accompanied by the Monsters University theme, TikTok users list things at college they didn’t see in the movie. Bella Thier captioned her video, “i don’t remember sully and mike having to walk up 117 steps everyday just to get to their dorm.” The unexpected parts of college range from dirty dorm water to Canvas discussion posts. On Twitter, Claire Trần joked about unrealistic “college majors as outfits” posts that appear on social media every school year. Instagram users posted about their excitement for the last day of school. Yes, we’re in our Rory Gilmore era, but that doesn’t mean we won’t complain about high school and college while we’re at it. 

Gen Z is looking to be Generation Union. Approval for unions is at its highest point in decades, especially among those in the Zoomer and Millenial generations. 72% of those 18-34 approve of unions, and 73% of Gen Z specifically would join a union right now. This reaction is due to various factors — wages inadequate for rent and tuition, quiet quitting and quiet firing, labor shortages, embracing of worker solidarity, and more. Mayuri Raja, a young worker at Google, told the Christian Science Monitor that “the way people see me in the United States has been shaped entirely by my status … as a source of labor. It would be foolish of me, honestly, to not organize as a worker when my oppression is tied to my ability to produce labor.” Workers located in big and small companies globally have harnessed the recent fiscal and political instability to raise issues of fair wages, mental health support, and labor unity. NPR even posted a Reel on how to start a union. Unions are winning at a 21st-century high; the current win rate is 76.6 percent. All of this to say: the age of the union is back again. 

As we pass Labor Day, fall is slowly beginning (even though I’m still suffering from 90-degree temps — thanks, Southeast). Gen Z is saying goodbye to satin and sundresses and hello to our Miley Cyrus aesthetic. In other words: time for cowboy boots, leather, pumpkin drinks, and tumblrcore. We at JUV are expecting earth tones, monochrome, and indie sleaze to fill social media this fall. Our 2005 aesthetic is becoming 2015 as the weather cools. Trends to stay are coquette styles, film photography, and (oversized) business casual. Though these are some dominating aesthetics, Gen Z has developed a unique individuality in fashion and lifestyle. We aren’t scared to go against the grain or try contrasting styles. We’re excited to see Zoomer’s takes on popular culture for this fall’s trends! 

✨ IYKYK ✨

IYKYK is a new section of the Screenshot dedicated to all the trends you need to know, now. Each week, we’ll bring you three audios, memes, or dances that are taking control of our social pages. 

✨ Twitter allows 280 characters — right now, though, brands only want to use one word. A new popular trend on Twitter calls on companies to post one word describing their goods. From Amtrak’s “trains” to Shock Top’s “beer,” this initiative is simple but hilarious. 

✨ If there’s one thing we know about Gen Z, it’s that we love to see brands that empathize with us. A key tip for company social media is to create opportunities for interaction. For some, this could be letting comments name a product, or naming items after customers. For others, it could be creating hug spots or interviewing potential buyers, à la WNRS. Whatever you choose, building that relationship is key! 

✨ In the era of aesthetics, consumers love to see a curated scene for how the product will fit into their lives and personal themes. Moodboards like Parade and Woofpalace’s perfectly advertise items for sale in an adorable, Gen Z fashion. 

Screenshot of the Week 

Colgate and uphill walks, Penn State and endless parties, NYU and toxic Stern boys … Every college has its red flags, and Gen Z loves to point them out. We asked members of our team to comment on the 🚩🚩🚩 of their campus, and the responses are hilarious. See some of them here! 

Harmonie Ramsden