In less than three decades, the first wave of Millennials will reach their seventies and the first wave of Gen Z will reach their fifties. That will mean the surviving GenXers will be the wise elders — a scary thought. Time moves on quickly.
Millennials have been part of the adult world for a long time at this point. And Zoomers are heading into adulthood with some of those born after the 9/11 terrorist attack now in college or already out in the workforce. Most of them don’t have any memory of the 2008 recession and those that do only vaguely. This pandemic is the first major event in GenZ life experience.
We are entering the era of the younger generations that are quickly becoming not so young. Millennials and even some older Zoomers are a significant part of young parents right now, beginning to raise the next young generation that will begin to reach teenagehood before long. And the former young generations are quickly becoming a force in politics. The age of rule by Silents and Boomers is coming to an end, if slowly.
It’s still uncertain what role GenXers will play in this transition: X = unknown quantity*. People we know in our generational cohort, GenX, have GenZ kids. One of our nieces is about to enter college and the other is still in young childhood. GenX is well into middle age and more than a few have reached the lower edge of senior citizen status, such as AARP eligibility.
As for Millennials, the first wave has already reached their early forties and will soon follow GenX into middle age. Our culture has been obsessed with Millennials, but GenZ as with their Silent forebears will probably pass into the adult world with little fanfare. It will be a gradual change, until finally the entirety of GenZ is out of high school and then out of college.
All of a sudden, there will be the newest young generation on the scene of youth culture, what a researcher for a marketing firm has called Generation Alpha** — you got to start marketing to them before most of the generation is even born. To these kids, all of the events of these past decades, even this pandemic, will be history as seen in future documentaries and movies.
In the decades to come, the aging GenXers, Millennials and Zoomers will talk about what they were doing during the Great Pandemic of 2020. And they’ll wax nostalgic about the time before it all. Donald Trump could be the last Boomer to be elected president (or is he he first and last Silent to be president?). The tragedy of the Trump administration will forever be conflated with the tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic, the last moment of failure that will forever taint the legacy of the older generations.
This moment we are now living through will be remembered as a turning point, after which nothing was ever the same again. To all the generations following, post-pandemic existence will be the only world they shall know.*** We are entering the new normal.
* We GenXers are such an unknown quantity that some might question if we exist at all. It’s kind of Taoist to not exist, to not be noticed as significant enough for public acknowledgment. GenX is like an old gnarly tree that is useless and so isn’t worth cutting down.
The Disappearing of Generation X
by Ted Rall (text below from linked article)
Now, the internet is talking about a CBS News infographic that says zero Americans were apparently born between baby boomers and millennials. CBS listed four generations:
— The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)
— Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)
— Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (23-37 years old)
— Post-Millennials: Born 1997-present (0-21 years old)
(The so-called cusp kids born between 1961 and 1964 are demographically boomers because of high birth years. But culturally, they’re Gen X, as they share cultural touchstones with younger Americans.)
That’s right, Gen Xers: To CBS News, you’re less real and alive and important than someone who is 0 years old. So much for Gen X culture — “Reality Bites,” “Slacker,” “Singles,” “Clerks,” anything by Quentin Tarantino or Richard Linklater, pretty much all indie rock ever, alternative cartooning — oh, and the Douglas Coupland book called, um, “Generation X.” To CBS, that stuff matters less than the pee and poo and puke and drool emanating from a 0 year old.
The disappearing of Gen X is a genuine widespread trend. A New York Times op-ed by David Leonhardt discusses “The Fleecing of Millennials” by Boomers. Leonhardt attributes not only declining living standards but also the “burnout” slur as being brand-new to millennials while, in fact, both of these characterized Gen X first, decades earlier.
When you read it, it’s downright bizarre that the phrase “Generation X” never appears anywhere. Online commenters were baffled.
These days, all the conversation in the media is about the supposed stylistic differences and economic clashes between the baby-boom and millennial generations. Generation X is ignored; we don’t even get caught in the crossfire. In a recent SNL skit called “Millennial Millions,” millennials are offered prizes like free health care if they manage to shut up for 30 seconds while a boomer talks trash about them. The game show host says: “I’m Gen X. I just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn.” I’m Gen X, so I laughed.
Being deemed irrelevant is bad enough. What will it do to our already close-to-nonexistent self-esteem to realize that everyone else in the country doesn’t even know we’re alive? […]
Anyway, Anna Sofia Martin writes, “a whopping 55 percent of startup founders are part of Gen X.” So much for slacking. Anyway, who can afford to? We Gen Xers, not millennials, were the first generation to get crushed by student loan debt. Even so, we have “31 percent of U.S. income, but just 25 percent of the population.” So latchkey kids really are having a sort of revenge.
“Masters of self-deprecation,” Martin calls us. She’s right. So, when millennials and Baby Boomers insist us on pretending that 66 million people simply don’t exist, we’re like …
** Generational identities, in a natural sense rather than imposed by marketers, aren’t defined by outwardly observed features and polled opinions. Rather, a generation in a given society is defined by some shared experience, an experience that shaped an entire cohort early in life, that predisposes them to a mindset and pattern of behavior for the rest of their lives.
In this time of rising right-wing authoritarianism, disease pandemic, and worsening climate change, the common experience for the youngest demographic will be crisis and catastrophe. All of the problems will be exacerbated by worsening inequality of wealth, power, and resources leading to corruption and conflict.
We are entering an era of tumultuous and sometimes devastating change, likely resulting in another great depression or world war or both. The disease pandemic is particularly relevant since it is the first truly and fully global event. The youngest generation will grow up in a post-pandemic world.
Maybe they will simply be called ‘Survivors’. Hopefully, they won’t be known as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
*** How will this affect the youngest?
Generation C Has Nowhere to Turn
by Amanda Mull