childhood

Generation huh: Who are we anymore?

Generation huh: Who are we anymore?

My sister was born in 1981. Apparently, those born in the years between 1979 -1982 are trapped in a purgatory generation of sorts.  I always knew there was something odd about my sister and now I am glad to have proof I was right. Well, see, those born in that very short time period were born at a time right before millennials truly came into their own and were also born at a time that they did not quite get the generation X world view.   Then again, do these generation labels really apply anymore?  Surely they must as context does shape one’s world view.  Consider how many technologies have come and gone during our respective generations.  This past week as I packed up my house at the bottom of my closet I found my old Blockbuster card that I had used religiously every week. Sometimes I had used it twice a week.  When we wanted to watch a movie at home, we would head out and rent movies two and three at a time. That was a Thursday night adventure. We would hit Blockbuster before all twenty copies of Titanic were all rented. Now we have Netflix and On Demand. My son, my six year old, has no clue as to what renting movies -physical tapes- is all about. That defined my generation.  Our view of a night in was shaped so differently than what it is now.

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I am of the generation X segment. I liked Reality Bites, as well as the Real World. I listened to Depeche Mode and I still know all the characters of the Breakfast Club. My fellow Gen Xers did not get a major call to duty. The fist Iraq war was over before we even got a chance to process what it meant to us.  Although, we did get exposed to the 24 hour news coverage in a heavy way with the shock and awe campaign. In a way we were part of the emergence of narcissism. We were taught “greed is good“.  As such it is kind of weird how we constantly note how self-centered millennials are.  But there is my sister. She had a MySpace account but she doesn’t walk with a selfie stick. Although, I can’t attest to that fact with 100% certainty.  What I have found for many of my sister’s age is that they have this exuberant millennial outlook that is married to a cynical Gen X point of view.

I am not here to dissect my sister’s generation, however. What I find interesting is how micro we are now getting in how we label people. A generation used to encompass more than ten years. A generation used to represent  group of people born and living during the same era. Emphasis on the word era.  Now we want to box people into tighter and smaller groups, labels and time periods.

Everything is niche. I suppose it helps the marketers hone in on those segments that will purchase their products or ideas. But aren’t we losing a bit of larger selves in the process?  Where are the grand masses of people that will exemplify mass power? As a new Yorker we know, for example, that jaywalking en masse gives us right of way. Well, that is until a car plows into the group. Forgive my morbid digression for it is the Gen ‘Exer in me coming out as I write.

Anyway, next thing we know, people born in 2008 will be their own generation- The Obamas. Yes, I am labeling them now and calling dibs on that name.  A generation used to be about a group of individuals born and living contemporaneously. By going so micro now in how we group generations, it is as if most people are out of step with each other. It is a perpetual cacophony of identities.  Can we only relate to such a small number of people these days? How much narrower will we become in our world view? The ironic part of this all is that these newer generations are supposed to have more open perspectives regarding individual differences.  The question is how is that even possible when our self-identities and labels become ever smaller?

17 replies »

  1. Mimi, your post is a great discussion starter. Firstly, I don’t know which generation I supposedly belong to but I was born in 1969 ten days after man landed on the moon. We did our school work in exercise books and we had textbooks, blackboards and the overhead projector was state-of-the-art…along with the VCR, which strangely no one in the English department could EVER use. By the time I was halfway through uni, PCs came into being and I remember when we got our first one with a colour screen but you did have to use DOS commands. There was no mouse. There was no Internet or email we could access and you took photos of other people instead of yourself. The AIDS epidemic was a very big thing and I remember the world changing forever after 9/11.
    These events and global things do influence our attitudes, beliefs and world view.
    Then again, there are so many of us who don’t follow the trends. Make our own way and sure we are not alone in this but I would like to thing there was more autonomy in becoming who we are. That we don’t all have to get caught up in some sort of flow because of when we’re born.
    That said, I might just be deluding myself. My kids are now 11 and 9 and they’re getting into U-tube and selfies are just the tip of the iceberg. They want to be utubers when they grow up , in addition to a few more sensible things like a marine biologist. I* delude myself that I’d somewhat ahead but reality is starting to bite.
    xx Rowena

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    • That is so cute that they want to be you tubers when they grow up. I believe my six year old son does as well. Definitely those events set the context and lens for our eyes and world views

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  2. I love how you mention that we purposely label ourselves and inadvertently make ourselves smaller and smaller. I can relate to this personally and I know many others can. When it comes to sexuality, we like to identify ourselves variety of ways (straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning). A preacher’s blog once gave a good consequence to this, and I can sum it up some… “Your sexuality does not define your entire life. Gay people and straight people have lives outside of relationship that are intimate and sexual in nature. They still pay bills and work and spend money. They still have families and such. Being gay does not change your entire life; it’s small section about you that may be different from other people.” I think we do a disservice to ourselves when we label ourselves because this puts limits on us (not necessarily in a sexual way, but it does seem to obligate us to a group of people or organizations). Just live your life in your own manner in as the Bible says, “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

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  3. Great reflection. I particularly love the part where you talk about how we place much importance, and relevance, on naming our generations and how we cling to that identity. Weird …

    It is a perpetual cacophony of identities. Can we only relate to such a small number of people these days?

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  4. You are what you believe in, like, talk about and whether we believe the government when they lie … The rest is history. 🙂

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  5. Very interesting perspective with which I happen to agree. I was born in ’83 and feel as though I might fit in where you labeled your sister. It’s so strange. My husband works with a 21 year old and I don’t understand 90% of the lingo she uses, it makes me feel old and out of touch!

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  6. Interesting post. The other day my 16-year-old niece was telling her friend something that a ‘middle-aged guy’ had said. I asked ‘About how old?’ She said “Like 25?” So 25 is now middle-aged! And then there’s Indigo kids and Crystal kids, separating people by the decades in which they were born, explaining what makes them different from other people.

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  7. Generation labels are interesting. Just as labels such as ‘small island’ vs ‘big city’ people are interesting. The thing is that technology and ‘shrinking sense of space and distance’ makes us so much more alike than ever before. Yes, let’s stop putting each other in neat little boxes because there is so much more to us all.

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    • I agree. A label causes an idea to concrete itself much too tightly. Labelling is as good as how well it is understood by the person labelling and the person listening to the “labeller” about the labelled. A person who misuses labels (categories) is perhaps lacking in basic intelligence or is innocently ignorant.

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