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?
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
Whereas 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?
- 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.
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?