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Identifying as Xennial – whats your generation?

Lately the media seems to thrive on categorising people into generations. They seem to be obsessed with criticising millennials, telling baby boomers how lucky they are and letting Gen X know they are just, you know kinda boring. Which leads me to consider where do I fit in? I was born in early 1981. While some of the wider definitions include me as a millennial, most have me as Gen X.

Truth be told, the generation I identify most with is Xennial. Why fit into the fringe of a really broad generation, when you can make up one that fits you perfectly like a glove?

Considering Generations

Millennial Stereotypes

Ms ZiYou Millenial Man

And where better to start than with the oft-mocked millennial? Millenials are defined as people born in developed countries around 1980-2000. The exact dates attract a lot of debate, with many demographers, researchers and reporters making varying them slightly either end.

Millenials are badged as the first digital generation, people who grew up with digital technology in their homes. They are credited with valuing experiences over things and thus killing off many industries.

In the workplace, millennials are the first generation to attempt to radically change the workplace norms, focusing more on flexibility and work-life balance than achieving status and power. And there is always the infamous avocado toast stereotype, of millennials not being able to save money due to enjoying luxury brunches. Not to mention the entitled snowflake commentary.

Read more here: Millenial Wiki.

Gen X Stereotypes

Ms ZiYou GenX manWhereas Gen X are considered to have been disaffected slackers in their youth who then grow into good cogs in the corporate machine. Gen X are defined as people born in developed countries around 1960-1980. They are the first post-war generation to grow up in relative prosperity.

Gen X’ers came of age as the MTV generation, the first generation to flirt with music videos. The emergence of Hip Hop and grunge also marked their childhood. Technology was still very analogue in Gen X’ers childhood, with digital technology and the internet not being available until they were adults.

Read more here: Gen X Wiki.

Baby Boomers Stereotypes

Ah, baby boomers. The generation that can be assumed to have all the luck, depending on what media you consume. Baby Boomers were born in developed countries around 1945-1960. This generation was labelled as boomers due to the post WWII baby boom after peace was reestablished.

They were born in peacetime and did not have to fight for their country. And they also had the opportunity to become more affluent than their parents. This was a time of no university tuition and plentiful student grants. A large section of this demographic also managed to buy their own house and secure a final salary pension, enabling them to become affluent and financially secure.

Read more here: Baby Boomers Wiki.

Birth of the Xennial

It becomes apparent there is a massive gulf between Millenials and Gen X. Millenials are digital natives who like to do things differently. Gen X are analogue to digital converts who follow the corporate status quo. Millenials struggle to buy houses whereas Gen X’er managed to buy houses before the markets exploded.

Read more here: Xennial Wiki

If you think you may be a Xennial, the Guardian has an excellent quiz here: Are you a Xennial?

Where do I fit in?

Millennial Characteristics

  • Experiences over things, any day of the week
  • Love disruption and challenging the status quo
  • A multitasker who loves to stay connected
  • Love working remotely and flexibly
  • Civic-minded and have a global approach

Gen X Characteristics

  • I can be a good corporate cog
  • My housing story is pure Gen X
  • Grew up analogue and had to learn digital as an adult

Xennial for the win

So henceforth, I am a Xennial. My first internet was AOL and was dial-up. It was in my own flat and I paid for it. My parents did not get internet until I gave them my old computer many years later. I got my first mobile at 17. It was a Nokia Brick. I loved it. I remember when SMS or text messages started becoming the way to communicate over phoning.

My primary school had one computer. It took floppy (as in real floppy) disks. My secondary school had a few more in the computing classroom. Even so, it was still 3 students to a computer. Even at uni, computers were still a luxury you had to queue for. And they ran DOS in which you had to then launch windows. A lecturer said he emailed us 4 days ago. We laughed. Noone checked their email that frequently.

I also embrace the millennial-esque new ways of working. Doing things the same way will get the same results, so why not mix things up? Creative approaches can solve many problems, especially when teamed up with hard work and the right attitude. Not to mention I like new apps and technology that makes my life easier.

Should we generationalise?

This all has me thinking, what is the point of defining people in this kinda narrow-minded way? Are we achieving anything?

Pitfalls of this sort of segmenting

I am the sort of person who open mocks horoscopes. You know, the belief that the month you were born in links you inextricably with people also born then. I often wonder if generational profiling is also too wide and vast? Not to mention that the nuance and complexity of people, who let’s face it are very complicated, does not feature. It’s a very broad brush that is used to apply these concepts.

Benefits of this sort of segmenting

I am a firm believer cultural context is everything. Hence generations do make sense to me. I understand more why the elderly do not use mobile banking when I understand this is a new development in the twilight years of their lives. The same way I understand that Gen Z kids today can use mobiles at a few years old. Our familiarity or not with these concepts does impact how we engage with the world. And lived experience matters.

In Summary

I find the concepts of generations initially quite sensible, then far too restrictive. While believing cultural context matters, along with the environment you grow up in – this is not the be all and end all. Truth be told, there are many, many more intersections that actually influence people. Race, gender, class, wealth and personality type are all more predictive indicators than a generation in my mind.

And moreover what about intergenerational unfairness? I’m sure my generation did not have things as easy as my parent’s generation in some ways, but we have cast technological advances that make life easier. Moreover, what about those coming after me? The true Millenials and Gen X’ers? I have no doubt that life is harder for them and I plan to dedicate a future post to working through all these ideas.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Which generation do you identify as?
  • Are generations useful as concepts?
  • Do you believe we have an intergenerational unfairness?

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.

26 comments on “Identifying as Xennial – whats your generation?

  1. I identify mostly with gen x per my blog. Though your survey considers me a xennial. I’m right on the cross over in 81. Then again I had older parents so my experiences were more in line with those born a few years before.

    While stereotyping is a risk I do believe strongly in cultural context. I know my references and comments often take into context something I remember from my youth. Depending on your generation I get understanding or blank stares.

  2. Yes! I am 78 (and I love being boring) and my husband is 80 and we switch back and forth between OMG don’t ever call me on the phone again to WAH! We will never get a mortgage and our parents are a horrible generation. I got Xenniel but I swear I am a GenX (mostly because I worshipped Douglas Coupland). This was fun. The quizz too. Im the same as FullTimeFinance.

  3. OMG the first quiz question. In college we had free internet through the school that you could access from off campus, but it was dial-up and not good. You would set it to redial until you got a connection. That sound is burned into my memory.

  4. Great article and I think that it chimes a chord with me.

    I am a year younger than you and I don’t like being called a millennial because I don’t think I am and it’s a lazy stereotype.

    One thing that I have thought is that with the house prices in the UK having soared (as in the annual rate of inflation) between about 2000-2006 – depending on where you live(d), if you managed to buy a house before they shot to the sky, profoundly changes who you are.  If you have a final salary pension then you are even more quids in.

    I bought a house in 2005 and within a 2 years it was valued at 60% more – due to buying at a good price and in a city that lagged the rest of the UK’s book.  I actually bought a 2 bed flat for less than £100k! 

    That experience is now not an option for Millennials – that flat was sold for twice what I paid for it – and with property so expensive, it’s no wonder that millennial put their life ahead of the status quo. 

    I’m a bit different – I have managed to (to some extent) see the challenges coming of house price inflation, job insecurity, importance of saving and investing & avoiding debt – but my peers mostly haven’t. 

  5. Generational stereotypes and categorization has always confused me when the context is a specific person or group of people (as in you can name names). It’s generally useless and irrelevant when it’s a specific individual for the exact reason you mention (gender, background, personality, etc).

    It can be useful in history, understanding what was going on at the time, what drove society and maybe even bridging a gap between generations if you’re puzzled by something.

    If I had to classify, I’m a Xennial. Someone who doesn’t conform easily to generation X or millennial… Likely in the same boat as most others.

    1. I agree! It’s interesting how similar our experiences are Ms ZiYou despite me being firmly in the ‘millennial camp’. My first internet was dial-up. My first phone, at 15, a nokia brick. We had more computers. But in First/Middle school it was still floppy disks. Laptops only became mainstream affordable as I was going to uni.

      I definitely don’t fit the conventional mould of a millennial. Perhaps I’m not even a ‘gen X’er’. For example I write my blog posts out on pen and paper first in shorthand. That is proper old school!

      1. Have to agree Young Fi guy – you don’t sound like a millennial! And that is fascinating that you write posts out on pen and paper – old school indeed!

  6. I don’t think you’re a Gen X’er like me and also agree you’re not a Millennial.

    I think I’ve had the best of both worlds, growing up in an analogue world and enjoying the digital one. I was an early adopter of tech, yet I didn’t use a computer mouse until I was 26 and didn’t get my first mobile phone until I was 27!

    At home, I was glued to the tv reading anything and everything on Teletext and Ceefax, before the internet came along.

    In the early days of the internet, only geeks and nerds used it so as a gamer, I was using it before most of my friends and family. I joined Facebook the year it started (2004?) and still only have my first name on there, cos back then before it all became mainstream, you never told anyone your surname (never mind your real name) cos you didn’t know what weirdos were online – seems this is still the case, yet look at what everyone shares now!

    I remember me and the ex had to take turns logging online at home because our dial-up router only allowed one pc to be connected at a time!

    I’m still not entirely comfortable having everything on my phone or all my accounts linked up, so I still do things which my Millenial friends think are old fashioned, eg still use a Filofax, still use my iPod, still use my digital camera.

    Oh, and I too handrwrite most of my blog posts in notepads before I type them up!

    1. Hi Weenie – thanks for sharing – you do sound like a classic Gen X’er there! Love that you write in notebooks first.

      Teletext and ceefax were amazing services – I remember we used them for news, tv schedules, games, recipes and even to book holidays. Old times.

      And your dial up stories are funny – amazing how shortlived that period of time was and how much better broadband is now.

  7. Yes, I am now in my 60s so classic ‘boomer’…as to the generation with all the luck…mmm.

    I did not have the opportunity of uni. I guess around 1 in 10 went in the 1960s and it was almost unheard of for those from a poor working class background to aspire to such lofty heights. In my family, my children were the first to attend uni in the 1990s.

    There was no wealth passing down from previous generations so whatever I have now is earned and saved. As for austerity they go on about today, I remember going to school with class mates who literally did not have shoes at certain times of the year and other times, just cheap plastic sandals and no socks. There was little in the way of state benefits and certainly no food banks…people who lost their jobs could apply for national assitance and would be visited at home to see how many chairs they had and what items would need to be sold before they qualified.

    No indoor bathroom, just a tin bath hanging on the yard wall, no telephones…just a phone box for the whole village, no computers or smart phones or all the many things people take for granted today…we ‘ad it tough…but we wuz ‘appy!

    1. Hi diyinvestor – indeed you had a tough but happy time growing up – the classic boomer. My Dad also grew up without a bathroom – they had a shared toilet outside in the hall. I do think sometimes we forget about how much we had it than our parents generation – I’ve always lived in houses with bathrooms.

      1. The very first house we lived in (up to when I was 7) had a bathroom but only an outdoor toilet. I remember having to use a potty/bedpan if I needed to go at night! When we moved to a house which had an actual indoor toilet, we thought we were living in luxury!

  8. Wow, so many similarities here.

    Floppy disk computers in school, running DOS, coding in BASIC, no computer at home till I went to college, dial-up internet, emails slowly becoming norm during the latter half of college. I’m also at the boundary of Gen X and Millennial, but heck no, I’m not a Millennial!

    Generational concepts are useful when looked at from a macro level. Academics, and especially economists, have to look at the big picture to get anything useful from a study. The concepts matters not in the fact that we identify in a bracket, but the relative common behaviour of a group becomes the defining characteristics of the most prevalent demographic.

    I’m not sure I believe in inter-generational unfairness. Each generation thinks the one above them is reaping all the benefits and the one after them will have it so much easier! Technology advancements is enabling everyone with the tools; it’s up to the individual to learn and use them. Societal norms and expectations are also always changing, perhaps in subtle ways; being plied by the generation with the most population.

What do you think?