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Yes, It Is That Deep: Gen Z and Anti-Intellectualism

Our access to information is unrestricted, we consume content at rapid speeds, and our pop culture knowledge is scary, but how many of us actually want to learn? 


Friends, 1994 ©

The issue at hand, anti-intellectualism, does not imply that we are not learning. On the contrary, the internet allows us to consume information at unprecedented rates. Social media has become a vehicle for spreading knowledge with an otherwise unachievable reach. Especially when it comes to TikTok. Algorithms allow us to access the knowledge of others with little to no effort and, at times, without seeking it out. 


This accessibility is a double-edged sword. We can gain perspectives we never knew existed. However, the effortlessness of curated content has eliminated our drive to pursue new information. 


Many of us have constructed upper thresholds in which consuming new information is too tasking. On social media, we witness this resistance in the “it’s not that deep” rhetoric. The burdens of new knowledge–challenging our beliefs, accepting our wrongs, and taking time to expand our mindsets–open us up to a sense of discomfort. While unpleasant, these feelings are essential. 


The rigidity of our opinions, which are often crystallized through homogenous content, is threatened in the face of unfamiliar perspectives. This leads to an avoidance of new information and a negative response when it is presented unwillingly. Think Swiftie reading about Taylor Swift’s private jet emissions; it’s hard but true. 


Our beliefs are often held with a sense of pride. Questioning these beliefs and realizing we are wrong makes us feel shame. The negative emotions associated with being wrong make us value feeling correct over truly being correct. Similarly, the insecurity of not understanding information often prevents us from pursuing it at all. We can ask ourselves, is Emma Stone’s taste in movies really pretentious, or just out of my comfort zone? 


Yes, it takes time to learn something new. You can’t always learn through easily digestible sound bites. Sometimes, nuance is necessary. We shouldn’t bar ourselves from information that doesn’t cater to our short attention spans and preferred platforms. Not every answer will be presented on social media–it's critical to do your own research, even if it takes an extra 5 minutes. 


While course-correcting our resistance to learning will be an upward battle, it will allow us to address both simple and complex issues with a level of nuance. Further, we will be able to show up for the causes we care about with both knowledge and passion. 

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