Generations Defined

I am very interested in how people think and why they do the things that they do. I would try to consume everything that had to do with the personalities and mindsets of different people. One of the most interesting to me was the generations and how each of these groups of people thought. Each one has a very different look at the world. There are several generations, but I want to focus on the most recent. Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z are in my opinion the most recognized due to internet memes and recent news. Admittedly a big reason for me in writing this article is how I see my generation, Gen Z, viewed by the older generations, and I don’t really think it’s fair.

We’re going to start with the group that has been the butt of many jokes on the internet for months now, the Baby Boomers. This generation, born between 1946 and 1964, get their names from the population boom in the years following World War Two. During this boom of babies, about 77 million babies were born in America alone. This impressive number lead to this group being one of the bigger generations. The increase in birth rates was due to people wanting to start families they had been putting off because of war and the Great Depression and the hope that the world would finally be safer and more prosperous, which it was. There was an increase in wages and thriving businesses. The introduction of the GI bill also allowed many people to afford to live in the suburbs which birthed the suburban ethos of where men were the providers and women were stay at home wives. Baby Boomers started to resist this way of thinking as a consequence of the big counter-culture movement that started in the generation. Stereotypically this generation is seen as old fashioned and intolerant to many new developments in culture. I don’t think it is necessarily fair to label all of them this way, and we do seem to forget that these people did take part in one of the biggest counter-culture movements in recent times. I will say I get the most flak for being Generation Z from this generation, but I can understand it. They grew up in some of America’s best years, and the world was vastly different than it is today. With how many people I know from the younger generations who can’t stand change, I’m surprised they’re not more empathetic.

Moving on to the “middle child” of the generations is Generation X. This generation born between 1965 and 1980 hated the idea of being labeled so they decided to put an X for their name, and the label stuck. This group grew up in a time where the social focus switched from kid-oriented to adult-oriented. Many government-aided programs passed over these kids and instead were given to the elderly, and 1 in 5 kids of this generation lived in poverty. This time period also saw a rise in divorce rates among parents with the mentality of “staying together for the children” was challenged. These divorces were also very different than what we see today with most children having much less of a relationship with one parent or the other. This lead to a vast majority of children being “latchkey kids” which also lead to the generation being called the latchkey generation. With many of these kids being left alone for hours between school and the single parent coming home, and much longer in the summer, they became more peer orientated. You can see why I called them the middle child. Like all generations, despite popular opinion, they did some exceptional things. New music was created like punk, grunge, and hip hop, and MTV rose to popularity during this time. They also created many of the technologies we have today, including Google, Amazon, and YouTube. They are also described as the major heroes of Nine Eleven because of the first responders being mostly comprised of Gen Xers as well as the leaders of the passenger revolt on United Airlines flight 93. I think it’s a shame that Gen X isn’t really talked about more.

Moving on to the next generation that is involved in a heavyweight bout against the Boomers are the Millennials. This generation born between 1981 and 1996 was thought to go through the 2000s hence the name millennial. Much like the generation before them, they don’t strongly identify with their title. This seems to be the most diverse generation when it comes to how they think. This is probably due to the amount of information that this generation can consume. With more information, this brings more opinions. Many see their own generation in negative terms like self-absorbed or greedy. The group of millennials serving in the military also have a very different opinion than those who do not. Most people in this group do think that the world is heading in the right direction and are optimistic about the future, which is surprising if I go by what I see on my twitter feed. This time period also marked a shift in the entertainment industry because of the internet. Millennials just weren’t watching traditional programming as much as the generation before. Late-night TV, as well as sports networks, took a dip in viewership. This younger generation just wasn’t that invested in those types of entertainment. This generation is also leading the charge it seems like in social change with tolerance in this group being at an all-time high. From what I see personally these people want to enact change and have the tools to do so.

Now for my generation, Generation Z. The newest labeled generation that ranges from 1997 to the present day and the leaders in the self-deprecation. This generation, in America, has never seen a time where the nation was not in a war. They also grew up in a time of heightened national security due to Nine Eleven, and they are the first generation to not have a personal account of the event. The oldest in the generation was not old enough to grasp what was going on or weren’t even born yet. The Economist has described Gen Z as the most well behaved, educated, stressed, and depressed compared to the generations that came before. When it comes to stress and depression this has been said to be caused by the increasing influence of social media and decrease of face to face interactions. They also seem to have more positive things to say about their peers than they do about themselves, being more likely to describe them as creative and adventurous. It’s not all bad for this generation though. They have contributed an increase of the “Creative Class” which are professions like teachers, engineers, poets, and architecture. They are also more likely to be entrepreneurs and self-starters. Many of the older generations have said that Gen Z is lazy and are dreamers. It’s a common theme through the years that most generations say that about the ones that come after, but here I don’t think it’s very warranted at all. Most of my generation that I have met are hungry to enact change and to create new things.

The Generations are very different, and that is pretty obvious. However, you can look back at what these generations went through and what was going on at the time and you can see why each generation thinks the way they do. Hopefully, this brings more understanding between the generations. Let me know in the comments some things you’d like other generations to know about yours!