It is rather ironic that cell phone companies today boast about having the highest quality camera on the market when a large portion of their consumer base, Generation Z, are choosing lower-quality options.
Recently, pictures taken on disposable cameras or polaroid cameras have been appearing regularly on Instagram and other social media platforms. A popular YouTuber, David Dobrik, released an app called David’s Disposable that allows you to take pictures on your phone that “develop” into disposable lookalikes.
Disposable cameras were popular around the 80s and 90s and polaroid cameras were popular around the 60s and 70s. Many thought that physical pictures would become extinct in the digital age, so why are today’s teens choosing lower-quality and physical pictures from the past?
Gen Z was raised surrounded by technology and labelled “internet natives.” Since childhood during the digital age has not been thoroughly studied yet, Gen Z are the guinea pigs. There are suggestions that a large portion of Gen Z was raised by technology since many parents did not know where to draw the line on screen time. For these teens, information overload has always been normal and thus the appeal of the latest and greatest thing is lost for them.
In a study done by market research firm GfK, within a group of 1,500 U.S. residents, members of Gen Z are “less likely than their millennial counterparts to want to be ‘always reachable.’” The numbers can’t lie: 66% versus 71% for women and 57% versus 74% for men.
The same study reveals Gen Z’s outlook on tech and, opposed to older generations, they are not very optimistic. “[Gen Z is] more worried than other groups about online safety and security and their personal information ‘getting into the wrong hands,’” Vox reported.
With the majority of Gen Z having been born after the Sept. 11 attacks, the group has grown up in a different world than generations before. Gen Z also views the world through a different lens than previous generations. This perspective is founded on the juxtaposition of realizing how large the world is, yet perceiving the world as small due to the interconnectedness of technology and the internet.
An attraction to the past and vintage items such as polaroid cameras reflects a deeply rooted sentimentality in Gen Z for a time they never experienced. A world they never knew, a world without internet, is intriguing to the first generation of internet natives. Connecting to something without technology seems more meaningful to Gen Z.
Beyond technology, Gen Z also loves vintage. Thrifting is a popular activity and the goal is often to find articles of clothing from the late 1900s. Stores like Urban Outfitters market their clothes as 90s or 70s-inspired. Urban Outfitters in particular regularly sells out of their pastel record players. Even though streaming music online could not be easier, popular modern artists still sell their recent albums in vinyl form for their Gen Z customers.
Gen Z’s sentimentality with the past bodes well for their relationship with the future. The ability to value history without letting sentimentality distract from the exciting newness of the future marks an unstoppable trait that this generation holds.
Image courtesy of Bethany Roberts ’20