Kevin and I sit down at two desks just outside his third period class at a high school in northern San Diego. He is 17 years old and Asian American, with spiky black hair, fashionable glasses, and a wan smile. He is the oldest of three children, with his parents expecting another child in a few months. Until recently, the family lived in an apartment, where the noise from his younger siblings was deafening. Perhaps as a result, he is unusually empathetic for a teenage boy. “Been doing this all day?” he asks as I take a drink of water before beginning our interview.
Kevin is not the most organized student: He initially neglects to have his dad sign the back of the permission slip, and when I talk to the class later, he forgets his question by the time I call on him. But when I ask him what makes his generation different, he doesn’t hesitate: “I feel like we don’t party as much. People stay in more often. My generation lost interest in socializing in person—they don’t have physical get-togethers, they just text together, and they can just stay at home.”