Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thinkin' 'Bout My Generation

I was reading an article recently -- I forget which, otherwise I'd post the link -- about the differences between how Generation X (folks born between the early '60s and the late-'70s) and the so-called Millenials (people born from the mid-'80s through the mid-'90s) view the world and their future prospects.

As I read up on the markers denoting the two demos, I realized I'd somehow fallen between the cracks of cultural currency -- neither old enough to have any special affinity for Lee Majors and Sonny & Cher, nor young enough to feel nostalgia for Power Rangers and Pok√©mon. Given the weird generational void I found myself stuck in, I was heartened to read this reflection by Doree Shafrir that sums up where my fellow 'tweeners and I appear to sit:
I was born during Jimmy Carter's presidency, a one-term administration remembered mostly for the Iran hostage crisis, the New York City blackout, and stagflation. The Carter babies—anyone born between his inauguration in January 1977 and Reagan's in January 1981—are now 30 to 34, and, like Carter himself, the weirdly brilliant yet deeply weird born-again Christian peanut farmer, this micro-generation is hard to pin down. We identify with some of Gen X's cynicism and suspicion of authority—watching Pee-Wee Herman proclaim, "I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel," will do that to a kid—but we were too young to claim Singles and Reality Bites and Slacker as our own (though that didn't stop me from buying the soundtracks). And, while the proud alienation of the Gen X worldview doesn't totally sit right, we certainly don't yearn for the Organization Man-like conformity that the Millennials seem to crave.
Yep, that's pretty much me. She goes on to highlight why we feel the need to categorize generationally at all, which also rings very true:
This urge to define generations is also about a yearning for a collective memory in an increasingly atomized world, at least where my generation is concerned. Indeed, where the Millennials tend to define themselves in terms of the way they live now, people in my cohort find fellowship more in what happened in the past, clinging to cultural totems as though our shared experiences will somehow lead us to better figure out who we are. The Internet is littered with quick-hit nostalgia websites like I'm Remembering, which posts pictures of toys and TV characters and old photos from the '80s and '90s. Certainly, discovering that someone else also had a Cabbage Patch Kid does immediately create a sense of shared history, no matter how superficial. This aligns us more with Gen X, which has also always bonded through nostalgia. Millennials, on the other hand, seem to be always looking forward, imbued with a sense of optimism and hope that to us reads as naive.
Some thoughtful observations. Check out the rest here.

No comments: