The New York Times Profiles Generation Z—With Gen Z’s Images


The New York Times asked Generation Z for a more accurate view of their generational cohort. They didn’t ask for essay or quotes. They asked Gen Z to show, not tell. They did so with pictures.

The Times asked, “What can you show us from your own life, or the lives of those around you, that might help make the portrait of ‘Gen Z’ more interesting, nuanced, complete or real?”

The findings? Katherine Schulten writes:
Nearly 2,200 students answered. They showed us teenagers in cars, in classrooms, at parties, in swimming pools, on playing fields and in their beds; teenagers with their dogs, their moms, their friends, their homework, their makeup, their video games and their prom dates; teenagers running, jumping, studying, singing, vaping, taking selfies, protesting and kissing.

But the thing they showed us most often — by our count, in over 70 percent of the images we received — was teenagers with their phones. In their statements, our participants variously described the devices as their friends and their family, their enemies and their addiction. Some said adults could never understand such a complex relationship. Others pointed out that adults were just as dependent.

Click here to view the 36 images the Times chose as the best. Each image is accompanied by a statement from the artist.

Granted, the Times exercised editorial discretion in choosing their finalists based on criteria they deemed to be most compelling, important, or fascinating. And even though 2,200 may appear to be a significantly large number, the finalists may not be wholly representative of Gen Z.

Nevertheless, these images are a slice of life from Gen Zers, and represent how those who frequently read the Times may view this generation, which could shape societal perceptions as a whole. Take a moment to image the business leaders, innovators, and advertisers who read the Times. Now think of the products and message they will craft based on how they perceive Gen Z. These images reflect culture, but they may also come to shape it.

One idea for churches: replicate this idea. Ask the Gen Zers in your congregation to provide images and accompanying statements that could help your congregation better understand them. Put their work on display, and thank them for allowing you to discover something new about who they are and what they value.