We are always connected but at the same time, we’re more isolated than ever,” intones Jane Marolt, one of the co-hosts of the Aspen Public Radio podcast, “Gen Z Tea.” The podcast with two 19-year-old hosts explores how this generation interacts with, and connects on, social media. And the name? “Spill the tea” is a Gen Z way of asking someone to share the news or gossip. “We thought about issues that faced our generation and we came across social media because it is such a large part of our lives,” Marolt said. “We use it every day and we kind of wanted to explore like the different paths that we use social media for. So that included influencers and YouTube, politics and then just social media in general.”
GEN Z TAKES ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Generation Zers (aka Gen Z, iGen or “centennials”) were born between 1996-2010. Raised on the internet and social media, they have never lived in a time without cellphones and the internet. The “Gen Z Tea” episodes, each about 20 minutes, started at a surface level with the first episode exploring the popularity of YouTube and the influencer culture before moving on to the mental health impact of social media, culminating in a discussion of social media and politics. Each episode builds on the other; listeners can hear as the duo gains experience in the medium.
The episodes are fun and engaging with Marolt and co-host Mariel Gorsuch sounding so polished that you’d be forgiven for thinking this was old hat for them. But interspersed there are other little breaks that remind listeners that they’re human and relatable, especially when they include clips from their parents after their foray into a digital detox.
Both co-hosts said that through this project, they learned about how their peers are using social media and that the answers surprised them. It can be productive, as demonstrated by the two teens who developed the not OK App. It has also become necessary for many people, whether it’s for work or for maintaining connections over long distances. And through Marolt and Gorsuch’s work, listeners will be able glean insight as well.
TEA TIME Podcast co-host Jane Marolt, middle, talking during Aspen Public Radio’s Gen Z Tea Time and Chat at Gorsuch Ski Café in Aspen. She is joined by podcast co-host Mariel Gorsuch, right, and podcast executive producer, Tammy Terwelp, left.
BREWING A PODCAST
The project came together as most great ideas do: “by accident,” said executive producer Tammy Terwelp. When thinking about topics and stories that people aren’t talking about, she realized that there was a ton of talk about millennials but the next generation, Gen Z, wasn’t getting much attention. Then, she met Mariel Gorsuch’s mom and, well, the rest is a podcast. Mariel brought in Marolt; Terwelp tapped Eleanor Bennett, an independent podcast producer and radio journalist (who happens to be a millennial) and the team was created.
The show definitely has an Aspen-focused tinge—for good reason. Marolt and Gorsuch were born and raised in Aspen. Gorsuch is a ski racer and attends the University of Denver; Marolt, also an avid skier and cross-country athlete, is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Southern California. Both recently finished their sophomore years amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Bennett has Aspen ties, too, as a former Aspen Public Radio intern; she has also covered issues of climate justice and female empowerment for SiriusXM Radio in New York City.
Terwelp created the team and then let them loose.
“I wanted it to not be, here’s, you know, Gen Z through my lens, ’cause I’m not living their life, anything close to it,” Terwelp said.
The result is truly through Gorsuch and Marolt’s perspective. Over the course of three months in the summer of 2019, the duo found the people to interview, recorded them, transcribed and created scripts for each episode. Each episode took about a month to create.
“I don’t think we really realized how long that would take and just all the work that goes into producing a podcast,” Marolt said.
“I like to do some experiments and take chances and I had no idea what to expect,” Terwelp said. “I was so impressed. The ladies put a ton of time into it, did it smartly and had plans. And Eleanor is an amazing producer. It is hard and the ladies just did such an excellent job and were so professional and took it very seriously.”
A GLIMPSE INTO A GENERATION
The trailer purports that the podcast is “for teens, by teens” but it can also be used a window into this emerging generation that is starting to vote, work and form their own opinions.
For example, the politics episode illustrates not only how Gen Zers are getting their news, but also how they’re finding their voice in the current political climate. It’s important: For many in the Gen Z demographic (including Gorsuch and Marolt), this is the first time they’ll be able to vote in the presidential elections. Despite historical reports for the age group, together Millennials and Gen X outvoted older generations in both the 2016 election and 2018 midterms, including 4.5 million votes in the mid-term elections. This impact will likely be felt even more this fall when this demographic is projected to be 10 percent of eligible voters.
At the moment, there are no definitive plans to record more episodes of the podcast. However, Terwelp said that perhaps they could record a few episodes prior to the national election.
The “Gen Z Tea” podcast is a big steaming cup of insight into a generation just coming into their own. Grab a cup and settle in; hopefully there’s another pot being brewed.
Available for download on iTunes, Spotify and Google Play.
Katie Coakley is a freelance writer based in Denver covering travel, craft spirits and beer, and outdoor adventures. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and online outlets like The National, Business Insider and Outside. She currently has approximately 57 podcasts in her listening queue.
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