I know this sounds like a special snowflake thing to say, but as someone born in 1979, the truth is I’ve never identified with either Gen X-ers or Millennials. I didn’t grow up with technology, but I’m comfortable with it. I ran loose as a child, without any real fear of predators, sex parties, prescription drugs, or being bullied into taking my own life before I hit puberty. My parents used me as free labor and didn’t feel bad about it. We were spanked and don’t (all) need therapists. We only got trophies if we won, and my parents, at least, never gave me the impression that the world revolved around me. According to Dan Woodman, an associate professor of sociology at The University of Melbourne:
It was a particularly unique experience. You have a childhood, youth and adolescence free of having to worry about social media posts and mobile phones. It was a time when we had to organise to catch up with our friends on the weekends using the landline, and actually pick a time and a place and turn up there.
We played Carmen Sandiego and Oregon Trail on our Apple IIE’s. We watched Friends and ER and Buffy, then Angel, then Dawson’s Creek and Felicity on the WB (oh, you watched One Tree Hill? You’re a Millennial). And we watched them live because the first DVR (TiVo) didn’t emerge until I had graduated from college, and taping things was a huge hassle, and your little brother would just tape over it “on accident” anyway.
We had pagers in high school, not cell phones. We had cell phones in college, but they stayed in our glove boxes because they couldn’t do anything but call, and it cost so much we actually reserved them for emergencies. We used dialup. Instant Messenger felt like the future had arrived, and we spent hours waiting to hear the noise of a door opening and closing, hoping that our crush had signed online. Back to Professor Woodman:
Then we hit this technology revolution before we were maybe in that frazzled period of our life with kids and no time to learn anything new. We hit it where we could still adopt in a selective way the new technologies.
If you’re getting all nostalgic reading this, chances are that you were born between 1977 and 1983. It’s only seven years – not enough to count as a generation – but our experience is unique to us. We were the last kids to make it all the way to grown up without pervasive technology. We were the first twenty-somethings to learn how to use iPods and internet on our phones, how to text and online date. We straddle a gap, exist between two worlds, and have, in some ways, lived two separate lives instead of one. And that, I think, earns us our own title (at the very least).
So, finally, here’s what Professor Woodman came up with: Xennials.
The idea is there’s this micro or in-between generation between the Gen X group – who we think of as the depressed flannelette-shirt-wearing, grunge-listening children that came after the Baby Boomers and the Millennials – who get described as optimistic, tech savvy and maybe a little bit too sure of themselves and too confident.
So what traits can one expect from a Xennial? In a nutshell:
Of course, not everyone born during any generation fits into the mold – just most of us – and our experiences can vary due to gender, economics, race, culture, etc. We can’t all be lumped into one category, but hey. I’ve said for years that I don’t feel like I fit into the generations sandwiched around me.
It’s nice to be vindicated, that’s all. Don’t you think?
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