A cafe in Baltimore, Maryland, shut down on Friday after nearly 13 years in business, due to a lack of kitchen staff.
As The Baltimore Sun first reported, the owners of Village Square Cafe, Roseann, and Robert Glick, blamed the closure on the ongoing labor shortage. “We simply cannot find qualified kitchen staff to keep up with the volume of business,” they wrote on the company website.
They added: “With no end in sight to the present employment crisis, we can no longer compromise and disappoint you, our wonderful friends.”
Village Square Cafe is located in the upscale Cross Keys Village, which is undergoing renovation. According to The Baltimore Sun, the closure will leave the Village without any restaurants.
The labor shortage is still having a significant impact on small businesses. Recently, the owners of a pizza restaurant in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, announced it was closing its doors after a 64-year run because it is struggling to recruit workers.
And in California, a sushi restaurant chain was forced to close all nine locations once a week because of a staff shortage. Its CEO said he had been looking for workers for months, without success.
Larger multi-chain restaurants are also struggling. A Dunkin’ coffee shop in Colorado recently announced that it was temporarily closing after the number of staff fell from 15 to three.
Back in Baltimore, many customers expressed their disappointment at Village Square Cafe’s closure on its Facebook page. One customer wrote: “And I was just wondering how this year could get any worse.”
As the US marked the end of the war in Afghanistan, President Biden zeroed in on a critical question: “What have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunities?”
The president noted that we have spent $300 million a day in Afghanistan for 20 years. It’s a shocking figure, but it’s only part of the cost of the wide-ranging militarization the US has undertaken around the world and in our own country since 9/11.
Twenty years after 9/11, our thoroughly militarized foreign and domestic policies have come at a cost of $21 trillion over the last two decades, according to new research my coauthors and I published at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Those costs have included the wars, ballooning Pentagon budgets, and our massive global military presence. They also include punitive immigration and border enforcement and the reorientation of the FBI, DEA, and other law enforcement agencies around counterterrorism with newly expanded powers.
US militarized spending since 9/11 has caused 900,000 deaths from the global war on terror and led to 5 million deportations from this country. It has put $1.8 billion worth of military equipment on city streets, singled out Black and Latinx people to be put behind bars for primarily nonviolent crimes, and fueled FBI programs that targeted people based on nothing more than their race, ethnicity or religion. And that’s just for starters.
It’s also, as the president suggested, money that simply hasn’t been spent on other things.
We’re still in the middle of a pandemic that has cost more than 600,000 lives in the US alone. Millions of Americans face homelessness now that most eviction moratoriums have ended. We have an ongoing opioid epidemic that costs almost 50,000 lives a year. Thousands of people in every part of the country have lost their homes or lives to fires and floods that were previously unthinkable, but have become common because of climate change.
Each of these crises is an emergency, but we still hear from too many in Congress that real solutions are just too expensive. But what if we spent even a portion of the $21 trillion we’ve sunk into militarism on those things instead?
Crisis solutions cost less than war
It turns out that many of the ambitious plans we hear are “too expensive” would cost just a fraction of the $21 trillion we’ve spent on militarism. It would cost less than a quarter of that – $4.5 trillion – to build an entirely renewable energy grid, decarbonizing electricity generation across the entire country.
For $449 billion – just 2% of our militarized spending – we could keep putting money in the pockets of families with children by expanding the Child Tax Credit another 10 years, helping people stay in their homes, giving kids a fair start in life, and tremendously reducing child poverty.
And it would cost just $25 billion – just one-tenth of 1% of $21 trillion – to vaccinate low-income countries against COVID, saving lives and stopping the spread of new coronavirus variants.
Even if we did all of those things, it still adds up to less than half what we’ve spent on militarism in the last 20 years.
Divest from militarization
We’re not saying we need to erase all of these expenses. We clearly need to take care of veterans who were put in harm’s way because of our policies, for example. But we can minimize these and other costs in the future by ending our reliance on militarization and war – which, as the ignominious end of our occupation of Afghanistan suggests, has proven a massive failure.
The fact that we’ve spent $21 trillion on militarism in 20 years proves one thing: When the country prioritizes something, we have both the money and the political will to make it happen.
But so far, Congress isn’t shifting priorities. On September 1, the House Armed Services Committee voted to add $25 billion – coincidentally, the same amount it would cost to vaccinate the rest of the planet against COVID-19 – to the already huge Pentagon budget for weapons military leaders didn’t even ask for. They’re out of step with Americans, the majority of whom said in a poll last year that they would rather cut the Pentagon budget by 10% to pay for other priorities.
At the end of the Cold War, the US cut back on Pentagon spending as part of a “peace dividend.” The US has finally withdrawn the last troops from Afghanistan. The end of this war can give us a peace dividend to reinvest at home, if Congress and President Biden are bold enough to claim it. After 20 years of missed opportunities for our infrastructure, our jobs, and our planet, we can’t afford not to.
Where many employees have gone out with a bang this year, a growing number are instead departing without so much as a whimper.
Hiring and retention has become a defining challenge in the current labor market, and the Federal Reserve’s most recent summary of economic conditions in the US says a growing trend is giving employers new headaches.
“Retention continued to be a growing problem for firms,” the Atlanta Fed said in its September Beige Book entry. “Restauranteurs noted concerns over ‘ghosting coasting,’ where a new hire works for a few days and moves on to the next restaurant without notice before they are let go due to lack of skills.”
Granted, the practice itself is not new, but it does appear to be more widespread than ever before as job openings outpace job seekers, allowing workers to reclaim a measure of the power in a situation that has favored employers for decades.
Recruiters in several industries say they’ve never seen anything like it.
“We are in such desperate need that I would literally hire anyone that passes the background check,” said one food-service recruiter who is currently trying to staff a large food-service contract. Insider agreed to not publish her name or client.
In the past six weeks alone, she told Insider, she scheduled 58 interviews for jobs ranging from $14 to $20 per hour, of which 27 candidates actually showed up. From there she scheduled eight for onboarding after they passed a background check, only to have just five show up for work. Of those five, three have ghosted her leaving only two out of the original 58 she considered.
“We’re just understaffed and barely keeping our heads above water and I’m at a complete loss as to how to fix it,” she said.
The manager of a spa and fitness center at a California country club said she has had eight new hires ghost her this year so far, even after she specifically talks about ghosting in her onboarding process and asks that workers stay in communication with her, especially if they want to quit.
“They have still done it,” she said.
Meanwhile, workers pushed back against the Fed’s characterization that ghosting workers were somehow unqualified for the job, saying that misleading job descriptions, low pay, or inadequate training gave them little reason to stick around.
“The main reason employees are ghosting employers is they simply no longer have to put up with horrible working conditions, terrible bosses, low pay, and being overworked,” said Matt Murphy, an Oregon restaurant worker who told Insider he has never seen anything like it in 25 years in the industry.
Although Murphy says he hasn’t ghosted an employer, he has had to deal with the consequences when someone on his team does, especially if one ghost leads to a ripple effect of quits when colleagues get suddenly overwhelmed by the extra workload.
Even with its challenges, Murphy welcomes the disruption, especially in industries where “at-will” employment contracts give managers the legal right to terminate workers at any time and for any reason – or no reason at all.
“It is causing some positive change in our industry,” he said. “Employers who would ordinarily just treat people like disposable workers are now treating them like real employees. It’s definitely changed perspectives on things.”
If you are a worker who has ghosted an employer or an employer who has been ghosted, please get in touch with Dominick Reuter via email. Responses to this story will be kept confidential.
All Lisa Rennau wanted in her New York City apartment was a window.
The 23-year-old anticipated spending long hours at her desk completing a masters in business and economic reporting at NYU – something more easily done with sunshine.
In August, she created accounts on StreetEasy and Zillow, joined Facebook groups, and reached out to real-estate agents, hoping to find a shared, windowed apartment walking distance to campus for $1,000 to $1,200 a month – the same prices she’d seen back in March, when she was accepted into the program.
The entire experience became a “wild ride,” she told Insider. As she tells it, brokers stood her up for viewings, landlords lied about the location of properties, and ads featured misleading images of apartments. Only 10% of real estate agents she contacted ended up responding, she estimated.
“I have previously lived in Shanghai, Berlin, and other big cities, but I have never struggled to find a place as much as I did here in New York,” she said.
She soon realized that she would also have to pump up her budget, first by $200, then by $400. “I caught myself thinking last week, ‘It’d be great if I could find something for under $2,000 – but at this point, whatever.'”
Any New Yorker will tell you apartment hunting is stressful, especially during the summer busy season. But after the pandemic sent the city’s rental market plunging, and some young professionals got a taste of luxury NYC living on a pandemic discount, real estate has bounced back. Workers returning to the city are unleashing a wave of pent-up demand. Listings are few, brokers are unresponsive, and prices are high as young professionals and students vie for a pad in the concrete jungle.
A flurry of renters
By last winter, NYC’s rental market had become every New Yorker’s dream.
In January, prices fell the furthest on record – a whopping 15.5% in Manhattan and 8.6% in Brooklyn and Queens, per StreetEasy’s Rental Report. The median asking rent in Manhattan was $2,750 – the lowest since March 2010, when rents dropped during The Great Recession.
Such COVID pressures enabled urbanites to lock in full amenity buildings in prime locations with $1,000 discounts and concessions. Young professionals, in particular, saw luxury apartments finally fall within their budgets.
That rare window of opportunity began to close after the city reopened in May and residents who’d fled began to return.
Take July, for example: New leases in Manhattan were up 54.7% compared with July 2020, per a Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel report, which found New Yorkers signed more new leases signed that month than in any other July since at least 2008. StreetEasy’s activity exceed pre-pandemic levels – 59% more visitors, 63% more rental-listing views, and 76% more inquiries on rental listings than the same month in 2019.
Jay Parsons, vice president and deputy chief economist at real estate software company RealPage, told Insider the demand snapback is a sign that the market is correcting itself after last year’s activity.
“You had a lot of pent-up demand from people who either temporarily left or were planning to move to the city at some point and put those plans on hold,” he said, citing college graduates as an example. “It’s always been a magnet for young adults.”
That’s the case for Gaby Lagos, 23, who began her apartment search in mid-July after landing a gig as a paralegal. For her, apartment hunting in such a heated market had become akin to a full-time job.
“I was obsessively refreshing the StreetEasy app,” Lagos said. “I think my screen time on the phone went up.”
She said it was frustrating to find herself as the fifth person in line applying for a place just listed. Her search was made even more difficult by the fact that she’s from Honduras and is in the US on a work permit, without a US-based guarantor to help her sign the lease.
The demand fueled by Lagos and her peers has sent rents skyrocketing by about 70% compared to a couple of months ago, according to Ramzis Hadzki, a broker at Compass.
“Rents right now are higher than pre-COVID because there are no availabilities,” he said. “A two bedroom in the East Village on Avenue B was renting for $3,895 [before the pandemic] and now it’s $4,495.”
He also noted broker fees, which were temporarily banned during the pandemic, are back at higher levels than pre-COVID.
Everyone’s making up for lost time
The flurry of activity also has a lot to do with the lease cycle. Renters who scored a 12-month lease during the pandemic this time last year but didn’t sign for longer are now seeing their rent shoot up, forcing them to pay up or move out.
As Hadzki said, “It’s been very challenging because all the clients that I rented to last year, they have to move now and they want to help me find them another apartment at that price, but it’s just impossible.”
Look no further than a viral July TikTok video that featured a $5,250 three-bedroom, two-bathroom listing in the East Village, which then had a rent increase of $1,500 “due to the enormous amount of interest” in the unit. Another featured a line of 80 people to view a $2,950 two-bedroom unit in Chelsea.
Nancy Wu, a StreetEasy economist, recently explained to Insider’s Taylor Borden that landlords are raising prices and scrapping discounts to make up for time and money lost during the pandemic’s lull. In August, New York City surpassed San Francisco as the most expensive place to rent an apartment in the country.
RealPage data indicates that rent is still slightly cheaper than it was before the pandemic, although it was only looking at professionally managed departments and not walk-ups, a big part of the NYC rental market. In March 2020, Parsons said, the average rent for the segment was $3,697, compared to today’s average rent of $3,613.
The soaring prices are no match for young professionals’ budgets, forcing some to turn to their Plan B.
Jazmin Beltran, 28, moved out of the city last March to work in LA, but ended up living with her parents in Arizona when the pandemic hit. Now, the communications manager has landed a new job with an office in Soho, but she’s been scouring StreetEasy since July, and is no closer to finding a place under $2,500 in downtown Manhattan or Williamsburg.
The high prices, she said, may push her to delay her plans unless she finds a deal when visiting the city at the end of September. “I really want to live alone so I may just wait out the ‘hot vax summer’ hype months and look into moving in colder or less desirable months,” she said.
NYC rentals bounced back more swiftly than anticipated
Both Hadzki and Parsons noted that NYC’s rental market has picked up faster than expected.
“We never bought into the New York is dying theory, but it’s been a remarkable rebound for the city to see it start to come alive again,” Parsons said.
Rental markets in other cities are heating up, too. A measure called true rent growth hit an all-time high in August at 18.5%, per RealPage data. And, though NYC lags behind other rental markets such as West Palm Beach and Phoenix, Parsons added, it’s significantly stronger than this time last year, creating a feeling of normalcy.
“It’s New York,” Parsons said. “A lot of people want to be in the city.”
He pointed out that while the NYC market took a hit, it didn’t die: Apartment vacancy in New York typically hovers around 3%, and didn’t exceed 6% vacancy during the pandemic.
The current state of the rental market may bode poorly for young professional’s finances, but it’s certainly good news for the city’s economy. Formerly the epicenter of the coronavirus during the spring, NYC was hit hard last year as its wealthiest residents fled and local businesses shuttered their doors temporarily and permanently. A thriving real estate scene is injecting some much needed money back into the economy.
Rennau, the NYU grad student, was able to find a month-to-month lease for $850 a month near campus. The only catch: it doesn’t have a window.
“But hey – I’m in NYC!” she said, adding that the move buys her time to save more money and find something better. As for that elusive window, she’s still searching. “Nevertheless, my search definitely goes on.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has firmly dug in on refusing GOP help to renew the US’s ability to pay off its bills, known as the debt ceiling. Instead, the Kentucky Republican said it’s up to Democrats to raise it in order to finance their social spending plans on healthcare, education, and childcare. He insists he’s not “bluffing.”
But the conundrum could have a coin-sized solution. A loophole in the law that prescribes the types of coins that can legally be minted in the US theoretically allows the Treasury Department to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin, deposit it at the Federal Reserve, and then continue paying its bills as normal.
The deal with the debt ceiling
The debt ceiling places a fixed limit on the total amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow in order to fund government activities, and Congress has to vote to either raise or suspend that limit from time to time as the federal debt grows ever larger.
The Biden administration and Democrats are pressuring Republicans to back down, ruling out raising the debt limit on their own and reminding the GOP they played a role racking up $8 trillion in new debt under the Trump administration. There’s no clear path out for lawmakers as they confront a barrage of deadlines this month, including another spending brawl that could end in a government shutdown.
Former President Barack Obama said in a 2017 interview with Crooked Media that senior officials had considered minting a coin to stave off a potentially catastrophic default.
“We were having these conversations with Jack Lew and others about what options in fact were available, because it had never happened before,” Obama said, referring to the treasury secretary at the time. “There were all kinds of wacky ideas about how potentially you could have this massive coin.”
The huge conundrum with a coin-sized solution
The debt ceiling sets up a frustrating conundrum: Congress can pass budgets that direct the government to spend a fixed amount of money across its departments and programs, and sets tax rates at particular levels to fund some of it. The gap between Congressionally mandated spending and Congressionally mandated revenues then needs to be paid for by borrowing money.
But, the debt limit requires yet another act of Congress to authorize the Treasury Department to actually borrow the money needed to pay for the spending lawmakers already authorized.
This causes a problem once the department hits that debt limit, as it did at the end of July. While the Treasury Secretary has a bit of leeway to use “extraordinary measures” to keep paying the bills for a few months using cash on hand and shuffling money around, that only works for so long. It may exhaust those abilities sometime in mid-October.
Actually reaching a point where the US government is no longer able to meet its obligations would likely be a financial and economic calamity. A default on existing US debt would send financial markets into chaos, and government payments ranging from Social Security checks to military paychecks could abruptly halt. The White House is also warning about potential cuts for programs at the state and local level like Medicaid.
This isn’t the first time Congress and the president have had a showdown over the debt limit.
The law includes this clause: “The Secretary may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.”
That clause leaves it up to the Treasury Secretary to decide on the denomination for a platinum coin, meaning in theory, Yellen could carve out the amount required and Congress could get on with more pressing business.
Of course, Treasury officials have long ruled out using the trillion-dollar platinum coin as a solution to the debt ceiling, arguing that Congress should do its job and raise the ceiling itself.
But on Tuesday, the US government’s official measure of inflation showed a cooling off in consumer prices for the second month in a row, suggesting that worries were overblown.
President Joe Biden and Fed Chair Jerome Powell represent “team transitory” – the ones saying these dramatic price increases are only temporary and in fact could be a good thing for the economy, since they signal that wages are also on the rise.
New research from Harvard economist Alberto Cavallo shows both sides were right, sort of: Inflation has been worse for wealthy people, and it’s looking very transitory for everyone else.
Cavallo’s work has to do with how inflation measures like the Consumer Price Index, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are built around “consumption baskets,” which are based on annual surveys that ask people how they spend their money.
The results of those surveys are used to figure out what an average household spends on different things like food, housing, cars, education, or health care.
The surveys used by the BLS to construct the baskets show that lower-income households spend a higher share of their money on things like groceries and shelter, while wealthier households can afford to spend a larger percentage of their dollars each month on things like transportation, recreation, and dining out.
Additionally, COVID-19 pandemic threw consumption patterns into chaos over the last year and a half. Since the headline CPI is based on consumption baskets that are only updated once every year or so, the normal inflation measure can miss how changes in spending interact with rising prices among different categories.
Prices for things that more affluent Americans spend more of their money on, like airline fares and new cars, spiked amid reopening and supply chain disruptions, outpacing categories like groceries and housing costs have remained relatively stable, in part due to interventions such as mortgage forbearance and a moratorium on evictions.
Inflation is certainly an economic reality in the US, but the real impact of it ultimately comes down to what you’re buying.
And in 2021, those who are feeling the impact of inflation the most are Americans who can likely afford it.
So far in 2021, there has been an 18.7% increase in the sale of print books compared to 2020, Publishers Weekly reported. The young adult function genre has seen the largest increase in sales this year at nearly 50%. Experts do not expect this to decrease any time soon and are worried suppliers will not be able to handle demand in time for holiday gift shopping.
“We are experiencing shipping delays from the majority of our vendors and do not see the problem being eliminated prior to the holiday season,” said Cindy Raiton, president of sales at Bookazine, one of the biggest trade wholesalers, told Publishers Weekly. “We advise all accounts to allow extra lead time and to take advantage of stock availability knowing that reprints will be challenging.”
It is recommended that readers get ahead of the curve by doing their holiday book shopping before Black Friday, shop locally, purchase only domestic goods, and consider buying used books. Bookstores and authors have also taken to social media to tell their readers of the shortages, tweeting reminders to be patient if books are out of stock of the newest bestseller.
Books and other paper goods are not the only items facing supply-related shortages. Everything from food and drinks to car manufacturing has been disrupted by delays. Labor shortages, warehouse space, backed-up ports, a chip shortage, and transportation problems are also contributing to the larger issue.
A record-breaking number of cargo ships are off the coast of California, waiting to get into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Over 60 ships are waiting to dock and unload, further contributing to supply chain issues and delays in the US. There are 146 total ships in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Of the 146 vessels, 92 are container ships.
“The normal number of container ships at anchor is between zero and one,” Kip Louttit, the executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, told Insider in July.
Last month, congestion at the ports reached an all-time high as disruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic continued to impact the industry, Insider reported. Changes in consumers’ purchasing habits during the ongoing pandemic, labor shortages at the docks, limited warehouse space, and trucking issues once goods are ready to reach their final destinations are contributing to industry-wide shortages in the US.
Import volumes at the California ports are only expected to increase in the coming weeks, according to data by the Port of Los Angeles. Wait time at the ports is currently estimated at 8.7 days, and will likely go up.
Ports on the West Coast operate as the primary location to receive goods imported from China, with containers bringing in everything from furniture to auto parts, clothes, electronics, and plastics, Shipping rates between the US and China are at an all-time high, and prices between the two regions have jumped 500% from this time last year, Insider reported.
As a result, holiday shopping this year is expected to have major disruptions related to the problems within supply chains. Experts are recommending shoppers get ahead of the curve by doing their shopping ahead of Black Friday, shop locally, and purchase only domestic goods.
“It’s been very good to our family, and I’m gonna miss it,” he said. “You get to know all your customers in this business and their families. They’ve become like family, so it’s tough,” he told the outlet.
The restaurant’s closing date will be September 26. He’s unsure at this stage whether he will continue the catering side of the business.
Lawler said finding staff for Red’s Pizza & Catering has proven to be a difficult task in recent years due to the combined effects of the pandemic and the labor shortage.
“It’s been very difficult finding help, and it’s gotten to the point where we just can’t staff the restaurant part of it,” Lawler told the outlet.
He added: “I wanted to hang around for a couple more years yet, but it just isn’t in the cards.”
Lawler’s struggle is shared by many other business owners in the hospitality industry who are having difficulty finding workers.
Recently, a BBQ restaurant called Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que in Winter Park, Florida, shut down after its workforce fell to just four people, Insider’s Grace Dean reported.
In the case of Red’s Pizza & Catering, Lawler said he tried adjusting the restaurant’s hours. This included closing one day a week to give his workers time off, since most of them worked every weekend. But it wasn’t enough to save the restaurant.
Lawler hopes to sell the business, which his father founded in 1957, to keep its name alive.
I was sipping a Moscow Mule in the corner of an East Village bar one night when a sense of déjà vu came over me.
The room was a sea of spaghetti straps, claw clips, baguette bags, and bright colors, catapulting me into my teenage past – more than a dozen years ago.
Confused about how these trends became cool again and when I aged out of my favorite bars, I looked down at my frayed skinny jeans and wondered if I should find new spots that attracted an … older crowd. My peers feel the same, taking to TikTok to cry about feeling old and outdated in their favorite NYC haunts.
At 29, I recognize my youth, but am also painfully aware of the cultural gap between a late 20-something and an early 20-something, especially when they’re divided into two generations: millennials and Gen Z.
I would know – I’ve been writing about millennials for the past two-and-a-half years, so I’ve been particularly attuned to how generational conversations changed during the pandemic.
Between last spring’s lockdowns and this spring’s economic reopening, we’re all a year older than we once were. But the lost year of 2020 accentuated the starkness of the cultural shift as a new generation enters young adulthood.
Millennials, many of whom suddenly became known as “geriatric” or “cheugy,” are no longer cool. Gen Z has taken over as the ‘it’ generation.
The oldest millennial is now 40
Millennials began to lose ‘it’ status when the oldest turned 40 this year. While the youngest millennials are just 25, the vast majority of the generation are no longer in their 20s. A term even popped up to describe the oldest cohort, much to the internet’s chagrin: geriatric millennial.
This homeowning millennial isn’t the avocado toast-loving, Instagram-obsessed, living-with-their-parents millennial that the world has learned to love and hate. That title now goes to Gen Z, except they’ve swapped out avocado toast for oat lattes and Instagram for TikTok.
The world has noticed it all. After all, the fascination with young people is not about any particular generation, but about whoever is driving trends and influencing consumer spending. Now, it’s Gen Z’s turn to take over the economy as their collective income reaches $33 trillion. (It’s set to surpass that of millennials in 2031.)
It’s a natural evolution, Jason Dorsey, who runs the Center for Generational Kinetics, a research firm in Austin, Texas, told me. “At around this age and life stage, the next generation sort of takes the mantle as the ‘it’ generation, because they’re old enough to really start to exert their influence.”
Society feels like it finally understands millennials, he added, switching their focus to the generation that remains a mystery. That leaves Gen Z “shifting and driving much of the conversation,” which he predicts they’ll do for the next 15 years.
Awakening from the pandemic to a cultural shift
Pandemic or no pandemic, everyone turned another year older in 2020. But a year at home heightened the millennial-to-Gen-Z cultural transition.
Digital bonding helped many of these new trends take root. Gen Z, already digital natives, had ample time to scroll on their phones during quarantine. They connected with one another, Dorsey said, as many underwent the fortifying experience of moving back home during the pandemic at a similar life stage.
At the center of this cultural shift was TikTok, which blew up during the pandemic. By September 2020, the social media app grew by 75%, expanding into intergenerational use. It signals the growing influence of Gen Z in leading consumer behavior, much the same way millennials did with Instagram.
TikTok became the place not just for dance videos, but for Gen Z’s jests at millennials and exploration of fashion trends, from tie-dye loungewear to baggy jeans. They’ve made their way to the streets, explaining why I came out of the pandemic feeling the need to update my wardrobe.
It’s all part of growing up
The downfall of millennials as the ‘it’ generation is symptomatic of the inevitable – getting old. It’s the natural evolution of generations, with one always superseding another as everyone ages, much the same way millennials overtook Gen X as a hot topic around the time social media emerged.
Millennials are having a difficult time reckoning with getting older. As my 29-year-old roommate said when I mentioned I was writing this piece: “That’s so sad!” followed by a deadpanned, “I’m not into this article.”
I, too, lamented to my therapist about how my world is going to end when I turn 30 this year. Overly dramatic, sure, but my peers and I are grappling with a major life transition that we may not be ready for – not the fact that Gen Z is making fun of us.
“It reinforces to many millennials that they themselves are entering a new life stage, whether that’s marriage or kids or buying houses or seeing friends doing that,” Dorsey said, describing it as an uncomfortable adjustment. “There’s this real sense of getting older, heightened when the new generation who are now adults is telling you that you’re older and outdated.”
Aging comes with societal pressure to settle into major life events like buying a house or having kids. Many millennials feel stressed that we’re unable to do so because of all the economic pills we’ve had to swallow. We’re also confronting the fact that our parents are aging, too, as we worry about their health risks during the pandemic.
The pandemic has forced millennials to grow up. While still young by many measures, we’re old enough to ponder existential life questions while also questioning past choices – whether a financial regret, or our skinny jeans.