Stay woke: What communication means for Generation Z



Today’s teenagers have more methods of communication open to them than ever before.

As tomorrow’s leaders, the channels that they use to interact with each other, and the language they adopt, will shape the way in which we connect with each other in future. Financial content agency Love Letters Publishing asked our work experience intern, Ellen Stocken, to share her thoughts on communicating in the digital age.

With great technology comes great responsibility

Today the responsibilities – or liabilities – associated with using the Internet involve considering whether:

• Use of the Internet is shaping language and social behaviour for the better;

• More sanctions should be introduced to regulate online behaviour; and

• It is possible to keep up with constant change given the rapidly growing population that is flocking to the Internet.

Language is changing for better or worse

Language has to change. The only languages that don't change are the dead ones so an adapt-or-die mentality is needed for progression.

The need for change is obvious: if we invent something, we need a name for it, and a new word comes into a language. Hence we now have the verb ‘to tweet’. Put simplistically, new words come in and old words go out. This pattern is seen in every area of human knowledge and every part of society.

Nevertheless, the continuous technological advances and fast-paced nature of the online world means that linguistic change appears to be happening faster than before. As linguist David Crystal states: “Language itself changes slowly, but the Internet has speeded up the process of those changes so you notice them more quickly.”

The adoption of Internet speak by the new generation is represented as a moral panic – as though Internet talk is slowly dumbing down youth – yet there is little evidence to suggest this is actually the case. Why? People generally have what has been described as “an innate sense of occasion with language”. So most pupils know not to write acronyms such as ‘TBH’ (to be honest) in a literature essay.

Cyber bullying

Young people today are growing up with platforms that are freely available all the time. So they believe they have the option to say anything, with few or even no consequences. There are limited sanctions that prevent abuse and threats online and most Internet users do not have knowledge of libel law.

Still, there is a growing recognition of the problem of online abuse so schools are introducing Internet awareness lessons earlier to help children stay safe online. As global awareness of online abuse rises, and offenders are put in jail, life is becoming harder for online abusers.


Catfishing’ is when an individual creates a new online identity by using someone else's pictures or pretending to be that person on social media. But should the target victim be able to sue the perpetrator?

The act of catfishing is only considered illegal when that lie is made to try and get you to part with your money. In that situation, it is considered to be fraud. Lies that don’t involve taking money don’t attract any legal sanctions at present.

One of the issues with catfishing is that it is new – like many of the issues associated with the online world. Many laws need to catch up with what is actually happening on the Internet if we are to prevent a new age of cyber crime.

Keeping up with the Kurrent (KUWTK)

Given how fast the world is changing, we have just two choices when it comes to new communication trends: embrace or be left behind.

When you read my subhead above, you may have thought that I have awful spelling. But actually it was a low-key play on one of the most infamous influences of the age for my generation – Keeping up with the Kardashians anyone?

When I scroll down my Facebook news feed, every third or fourth story is about them. I don’t even watch their show, but I know what’s going on with the Kardashian family. Everyone I know has an opinion about them.

The massive growth of the Internet means changes, developments and updates occur incessantly. So it is getting easier and easier for us to fall by the wayside if we can’t keep up with the constant stream of information that flows in our direction.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the web is crucial to uniting the world and increasing the strength of global economy. According to the World Bank, for every 10% increase in broadband Internet access, developing countries can expect GDP to rise by 1% to 2%. Politicians recognise this, which is why global finance ministers are pushing to bring more than a billion new Internet users online by 2020.

Finally, just in case you are wondering what the headline of this article means, here is a definition of “stay woke”, courtesy of the Urban Dictionary: “Deriving from ‘stay awake’, to stay woke is to keep informed of the shitstorm going on around you in times of turmoil and conflict, specifically on occasions when the media is being heavily filtered."

Although this term is fairly new, in a matter of months it could be considered "cringey af". ("Cringey" means embarrassing or making someone feel uncomfortable and "af" is an acronym for "as f**k", mainly used as an adjective for emphasis.)

Some advice on communication from a member of Generation Z

For my generation, keeping up with the Internet – and the Kardashians – is second nature, so here are my top tips for other people who want to keep up.

• Ditch Internet Explorer; go for Chrome

Internet Explorer has been falling out of favour for years. A fast and effective web browser that works well with Google, Chrome has become the go-to web browser for schools and smartphones.

• Get friendly with social media

The most user-friendly and easiest way to connect with others is by using social media. These days everyone and their mothers has a Facebook account. Facebook is a great portal to access other sites such as Spotify and Instagram. It’s very rare that I use email. I mostly exchange direct messages with my friends because it’s instant. I check my Facebook all the time. It’s force of habit.

• Accept that people want to read a diversity of views (but not everything on the Internet counts as truth)

If you are a regular reader of a particular newspaper, you tend to have a certain opinion forced on you. With the Internet, you have access to lots of different opinions – nothing is filtered out. So you can make up your own mind. I like that. But I know that there is a lot of ‘click bait’ on the Internet and I can’t trust everything that I read - content can be fabricated to get more views.

• Communicate well – and you can make a living out of it

If you’re good at it, social media can be a great career choice. It can also make you a worldwide star. You don’t have to spend years slogging away at drama school or a football academy to be famous now. Lots of people earn their living from blogging or making videos. Take Swedish comedian and video producer PewDiePie. He has over 46 million followers on YouTube and is a multi-millionaire.

While we can't guarantee that we can make you a social media millionaire at Love Letters, we can help with other aspects of content strategy so please get in touch.

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