Generation Z: How post-millennial young people are engaging with blockchain

Fin Strathern reports on blockchain and cryptocurrencies for TechForge Media. You can connect with him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/finstrathern/.

Feature In 2019, Gen Z surpassed millennials and baby boomers to become the largest generation in the world, making up a third of the global population. This demographic dominance alone makes those born between 1995 and 2010, an important consideration for cryptocurrency markets and blockchain tech firms. What’s more, Gen Z’s comfort with and strong preference for digitised transactions makes them an even more important demographic in these growing markets. 

A Blockchain Capital survey of more than 2,000 adults in the US found that while only 9% of total correspondents owned Bitcoin, 18% of the 18-34 year olds surveyed had a stake in the digital coin. Although this incorporates both Gen Z and millennials, it helps demonstrate that crypto knowledge and engagement is heavily skewed towards the younger generations. 

While these young people are often acknowledged amid the conglomerate anonymity of national surveys and experts’ opinions, their voices can go unheard as to why and how they choose to engage with blockchain and cryptos. The Block spoke with an avid and successful young investor in cryptos, as well as the founder of a student-ran group exploring the legal applications of blockchain technologies, to try and rectify this. 

Harvey, 21, who requested The Block did not use his real name, started investing in cryptos in mid-2017 after hearing about Bitcoin during his economics classes in sixth form.  

“I used to stay behind after class to talk about cryptos with the teacher and one of my friends,” he says.

“My friend was big into computers at the time and had owned a fair amount of Bitcoin since it had been at the $1,000 mark back in early 2017. Seeing the potential of cryptos, I decided to put £700 of my savings into Bitcoin and Ethereum just before the summer holidays. By the end of that year I had over £5,000.” 

Harvey diversified his portfolio during 2017, investing in currencies such as Litecoin, XRP, and Digibyte. Despite the crypto market crashing from its December 2017 peak of $19,000 (£13,700), he decided to hold the majority of his investments. 

“Through what research I had done I strongly believed cryptocurrencies would be a major player in the future of digital payments, I didn’t see a reason to cash out having seen how massively they spiked in 2017,” he says. 

Now a university student, Harvey is glad he did: “Ever since Covid-19 and the first lockdown in March, most major coins have been increasing in value at an astonishing rate,” he said.. “I think the pandemic has shown people the instability and uncertainty associated with having to rely on fiat currencies. 

“Just as the pandemic showed companies they don’t need staff in the office five days a week, it also showed consumers how out of touch traditional forms of payment are with the modern world. Bitcoin’s transition into the mainstream – through backing from PayPal, Tesla, and other firms – has definitely helped its value to continue to grow too,” he concludes. 

Harvey is one example of the disassociation felt by many in Gen Z between the wants and needs of their digital experience and the current financial system. Despite criticism towards cryptocurrencies from older generations, young people are showing they see cryptos as an – albeit risky – form of savings, where they are willing to research and invest in them for greater financial independence. 

George Alexander is founder of The Legal Chain (left), a student-run organisation that looks at the world of blockchain and tries to consider its potential implications in various aspects of the legal sector.

Alexander started the group after developing an interest in the technology behind cryptocurrencies in 2019. “As a law student, I began to consider both how blockchain could be utilised within the legal sector and the legal questions that arose from its use elsewhere,” he tells The Block. “However, I struggled to find any educational platforms that really focused on exploring these perspectives, less so any platform that was aimed at students. After seeing an increase in virtual opportunities during the pandemic, I decided to create one myself in the form of The Legal Chain.” 

The organisation strives to educate students through social media, monthly webinars, articles, and additional educational content shared on its LinkedIn page

“For our webinars, we invite expert speakers to share their knowledge on a specific area of blockchain, allowing time for a Q&A session at the end of each,” Alexander notes. “We are proud to say that we have welcomed guests from a range of law firms such as Mishcon de Reya and Allen & Overy.”

Regarding future plans for the group, Alexander notes that ‘[he] sees the blockchain community as incredibly supportive and collaborative, as everyone involved wants to see the benefits that its wider adoption can bring’. The organisation recently partnered with Encode Club, a community of university students, researchers and developers building in blockchain. 

“Moving forward, we will continue to collaborate with and support fellow educational blockchain platforms,” adds Alexander. “Aside from this, it would be fantastic to host an in-person event in the future once restrictions are lifted.”

Alexander’s work with The Legal Chain exemplifies how young people and students, from a variety of industries, are intrigued by and invested in the growth of blockchain as a technology that can be applied in an ever-increasing variety of ways. Some, like Harvey, have been taking their own practical steps since before the first big Bitcoin boom.  

Gen Z’s engagement with blockchain outrivals that of any other demographic – and both men note that they see little sign of the technology diminishing in importance to them and their careers as they prepare to leave university.  

Interested in hearing more in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series, Global, Europe and North America.   

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