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.
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?