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India's Gen Z is keen on spirituality and side hustle

MTV Youth Study finds 62 per cent Gen Z following religion and spiritual practices as coping mechanism

Gen Z are finding online spaces unsafe and admit to being bullied.
Gen Z are finding online spaces unsafe and admit to being bullied. (MINT_PRINT)

Spirituality and youth seem like an unlikely combination. Yet, 62 per cent of Gen Zers believed spirituality helps them gain clarity, with 70 per cent feeling more confident and in “control of their life” after prayer. They also seemed to have a pragmatic yet optimistic outlook, be it career, dating or life once the pandemic subsides, a recent study by youth entertainment channel MTV revealed.

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The MTV Youth Study, which is done every two years, focuses on gauging the pulse of what Indian youth’s attitude and beliefs on education, money, career, love, content they consume and how do they view their future. The study, conducted between October and December, last year, was virtually participated by over 26,000 youngsters in the age group of 15 to 25 years, identified as Gen Z, in 50 cities. 

There seems to be a greater appreciation for family as well, especially since the pandemic. Over 50 per cent believe their family makes them happy, as compared to 42 per cent in 2019 and mere 13 per cent in 2016. They also drew motivation from their families. 

The fact that more Gen Zers were veering towards religion and spirituality as coping mechanism early on was a surprising and interesting finding, said Anshul Ailawadi, business head - youth, music and English entertainment, Viacom18. 

“Previous editions to this study have shown that youngsters followed religious or spiritual practices because their parents said so. But this is possibility first young generation in modern India, where they willingly want to learn more about this at an earlier stage. We will have to see how they shape up 10 years later. This is unique, and pandemic has sort of triggered it,” said Ailawadi over a Zoom call.  

However, he suspected that respondents used religion and spirituality interchangeably indicating that either they didn’t understand the difference or they perceived these to be one thing. “The way I would define this is using a superior power to help you navigate the challenges you are experiencing today, whether it’s religion, spirituality, that’s secondary,” he explains. 

Over half (56 per cent) believed that life will return to how it was and don’t believe the “new normal” will last for long once the pandemic subsides. Another interesting aspect was that while passion was a driving force in choosing one’s work, nearly half of the respondents believed money was most important we come out of the pandemic. Forty-six per cent respondents stated that their focus was on being rich and successful rather than living a meaningful life. In 2019, this sentiment was just 25 per cent. 

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As a result, they seemed to embrace side-hustle, with 70 per cent believing it to give them a ‘real shot’ to fame and success. They also believed they could monetize their hobbies be it singing, collecting sneakers, etc. “Lot of hobbies have become side-hustles as Gen Z is seeing that they can make money out of these,” said Ailawadi. With this context, it wasn’t surprising then that 74 per cent Gen Zers thought there were careers that were yet to be explored, and new ways of earning money. 

Coming to love and friendships, Gen Zers had a low tolerance for toxic relationships. In friendships, 42 per cent didn’t want friends who competed with them, while 45 per cent believed friends were only for fun. In 2019, such sentiments were at 18 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively. 

They also didn’t believe in true love, with general consensus being that people viewed relationships as ‘here today, gone tomorrow’. Only 13 per cent were in a committed relationship and a quarter of the participants didn’t ascribe to the concept of marriage, which was just 10% in the last study. And during the lockdown, one in every two respondents said they had flirted with someone else in spite of having a boyfriend or girlfriend. 

Most Gen Zers were politically conscious or have an opinion on the topic, as 83 per cent agreed to having conversations about it with their peers. Yet, the highly polarized digital world made them feel unsafe. About half of the respondents felt pressured to show that they were authentically Indian, and about the same percentage of people admitted to being bullied online. 

In terms of content consumption, streaming apps were highly used, as 67 per cent felt they could watch the content of their choice without being judged. For 43 per cent of the participants, music kept them “emotionally healthy” and was their top choice to de-stress. 

“Clearly, this is the more resilient generation. Things are better today than how they were a year ago; there is more clarity and people are getting vaccinated, travel is slowly coming back. So, the worst is behind us. But when this study was done, the worst wasn’t behind us. The fact that they were resilient then means they must be very optimistic today. And that’s a very good space for them to be in,” he said. 

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