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It’s hardly a secret that older members of Generation Z are facing challenges. Much like millennials before them, many in Gen Z find “adulting” to be a struggle, seemingly stuck in a prolonged adolescence. Even more concerning is that their parents often appear to be perfectly fine with this state of affairs.

A widely shared video showcases a young man who, by any standard, should be in the prime of his life—earning money and looking for a wife. Instead, he’s trapped in perpetual adolescence, largely due to a mother held back by her own fears of loneliness and feeling obsolete. Unfortunately, this is becoming symbolic of today’s “modern man.”

Scary, right?

Maybe this young man is the next Zuckerberg, busy crafting the latest social media sensation that will make him a billionaire. While that’s a possibility, it’s more likely that he’s medicating his social anxiety with Xanax and hasn’t touched grass in quite some time.

So, what’s behind the arrested development of Zoomers? A common theory points to the pandemic as a major contributing factor. There’s an interesting Reddit post from a Zoomer that discusses this child-like phenomenon among Gen Z:

When the pandemic hit I was exactly in my second year of university, had barely turned 21. All of my friends were also in their 20s, be it early or late 20s.

Back then none of us fathomed that the lockdowns would be dragged for 2 years. I distinctly remember how breezy and welcome it seemed in the beginning, as many of us felt like putting everything on pause for a while is bound to be refreshing, almost transformative.

My life was wonderful and thrilling, I adored attending classes and learning and I thrived in the academic atmosphere. It felt like the cloud of depression that had been following me all throughout highschool finally dissipated, so that was a pivotal moment for me. Many of my friends shared the sentiment and finally acquired a sense of contentment with their lives. It makes me sick to my stomach that we had more than half of this experience robbed from us. That my early 20s are nothing but a fever dream and a lamentable haze, with some cute moments sprinkled here and there.

I am grateful that my family came out of the pandemic alive. The death toll was horrific; there’s no denying that. But I also mourn how every single young person around me still hasn’t bounced back from it, lives in a perpetual state of depression and the worst aftermath is this crippling fear of time, age and responsibility.

There are all these jokes that my friends keep making and they are everywhere on social media as well, “I am 28 year old teenage girl”, “How can someone born in 2000 be 23 when I was born in 1994 and am also 23?”, “When my boss asks me, a 31 year old teenager, to host the meeting”.

There is humour in them but they are indicative of a very serious problem. People can’t reconcile with the passage of time in a natural way because we exerted 0 control over how two of our years unfolded. People are still stuck with their identity pre-pandemic because they didn’t have the occasion to organically flourish into a new one.

I wish the pandemic was handled differently.

In reality, a myriad of reasons likely contribute to the struggles faced by both Gen Z and Millennials. Let’s face it, they’re navigating an entirely different and more daunting world than most of us have ever encountered. Who could blame them for not wanting to face the harsh realities that await them, like soaring crime, gender confusion, World War III, and other horrific things? Maybe Gen Z has the right idea—stay online and enjoy mom’s home cooking. Things could be worse.