Recently, I have found myself thinking a lot about the different generations, how we are evolving, the difference between us and them and what’s in store, and what the generations after us will be like.
I have decided to roll with this new-found interest and minor obsession not just because It could be considered a trending topic but because I think there’s a lot to be learned from it.
Let’s quickly review all the generations, their titles, and attributes before we go any further because until recently the lines were very blurry for me, too.
What I found through research is that no one seems to have sat down and said “okay let’s get our facts in line” because most information I found conflicted something else I read in one way or another. So here is a rough average of all my information mixed together.
The Silent Generation was the first to be effectively named. The rough timeline of their birth was the 1920s to the mid 1945s, so for me, that would be my grandparents. This generation was practical and hardworking, thus named the ‘traditionalists’ or ‘the silent generation’ because it was considered dangerous and foolish to speak out.
They often worked 6- or 7-day weeks, 12 hours a day. Living through tedious times such as the Great Depression and World War II, work was considered a great privilege to them. They took any job, even if it didn’t appeal to them, they were thrifty with their money and respected their authority. Overall they abided by what we would now sometimes consider outdated traditions.
Next came the Baby Boomers, around the years of the mid-1940s to the mid-60s. This name is derived from the boom in birth rates following the war. This group believed themselves special, they rejected a lot of the traditionalist values and began to look at the future positively, believing the world could get better. Wealthier and more active than the generation before them, a survey conducted in the UK in 2004 said that baby boomers held 80% of the UK’s wealth.
Following this was the more aptly names Generation X. This included those born in the early 60’s to the early 80s. These guys cared a lot more about work-life balance than those before them. They were the first to stop and say “wait, what’s in this for me?” and so they had a negative association with laziness. But overall, they were much more pragmatic and educated than their parents but were also accused of not being fully socially attuned.
Then came the famed Millennials. Much more tech savvy then the generations preceding them, they were sophisticated and well accustomed to the world around them. On average, they graduated during the Great Recession and were thus told that there were no jobs and with a lack of work experience, they were deemed unemployable.
Often referred to as snowflakes – because they are considered fragile and lacking work ethic – they had a lot of barriers to overcome when facing the big bad world. But they seemed to have adapted, creating jobs and learning more about technological benefits than the generation before.
Which brings us to the current Generation Z. As I discussed in a post before (you can see that here) this generation spans between the mid-’90s and 2010. They are viewed as the most open-minded generation to date, and they are more online and even more inclined toward self-employment than those before them.
There has been a lot of marketing fun and curiosity surrounding the generations and that is why the labels became so useful and necessary. It helps people to understand their peers and even their elders and what is expected to come out of their time on the earth.
Generation X was given said name to signify the unknown that was expected from this group. There weren’t any external factors to shape this generation at the time. Following them was Y and Z because that seems the most logical.
But the newest generation is known as Gen Z so what can possibly come after the end of the alphabet? Is it expected that these marketing tools created to organize and objectify us are just going to be trumped out by the developing technologies and everyone in the future, young and old will all just have the same ideas, knowledge, and desires?
There is speculation that the newest cohort will be named Generation Alpha, and that is both intimidating and mystifying.
Gen Alpha are the children of millennials and the first to be born fully within the 21st Century, with all the perks and advancements. These guys are going to be the wealthiest, and probably the longest living of all the generations so far.
But I can’t help wonder will all the hang-ups of today still be in existence when they are out in the working world. The youth of today are described as sensitive, unsociable and generally much more anxious or depressed. The rise of mental illness in the past few decades has risen considerably.
There are many reasons to explain this. More pressure from parents, too much screen time, always being ‘on’, gender and sexual orientation confusion, increased financial pressures and fewer face-to-face interactions.
Are we really to blame for this unfortunate rise of anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms and so on? The generations before having widdled it down to the simple explanation of technology and our dependency on it, our double life online and a feeling of always being contactable.
What if that is the case? Is that really the modern ages’ fault or is that just the natural progression society is meant to take? Of course, we are more anxious as a generation, we are in the public eye all the time, everything we do online leaves a digital footprint, and anything we do out of the ordinary in public could inevitably be filmed and posted online.
A recent survey found that Gen Z drinks much less than the millennials before them, and though for some this is a health-conscious choice, a lot have admitted to a fear of getting too drunk and an embarrassing photo being posted of them online.
With Facebook’s many privacy breech’s and cookies forcing us to see products that we viewed one time four months ago, we feel completely paranoid and lacking privacy. Even in our own homes, we feel as though everything we do is monitored in some ways. We may as well fast forward to the lifestyle portrayed for us in the cult classic, 1984 by George Orwell, and accept our fate.
On top of that, we are faced with the socio-economic-environmental travesties that have been left for us from the generations before us. Every day there is scaremongering tactics from scientists begging us to change our ways immediately, remove our carbon footprint, change the packing and way we live and shop overnight. I’m not saying this isn’t important because it is vital, but why has it been left until the point of if-you-don’t-change-now-there’s-no-going-back.
Is it because those older than us simply don’t care because it’s not going to be in their lifetime, is it a lack of awareness or is it all just another cog in the capitalist wheel?
The youth of today are facing unending problems not just in the present but problems that will continue for decades into the future.
So, excuse us for feeling more anxious than not, and feeling a constant lack of control. I think we all deserve a break, don’t you?
But ironically, there’s no time for a break because yanno’ the planet is dying and robots might kill us all.