One of the blogs I follow, Adulting, is a guide to the youths on how to be an adult. Recently, I read a post called A very gentle PSA to anyone who may be writing a trending piece about millennials. It started making me think about my generation, and more specifically, how I don’t know what the crap my generation is.
My parents are clearly Baby Boomers. Some of my friends’ older brothers and sisters are Generation X. My other friends’ younger brothers and sisters are Generation Y. Sometimes, I fall into Generation X. Other times, Generation Y. Sometimes, Generation Y is referred to as Millennials. Other times, Millennials are the generation after Generation Y. Even in my marketing classes, each textbook had different definitions for post-Generation X generations.
For example, this Time article defines Generation X as anyone born between 1965 and 1980 and places me (just barely) in the Generation Y/Millennials group. I definitely identify more with Generation X than Millennials, but I’m not as angsty as Generation X and I’m not as affected as Millennials. William J. Schroer gives a timeline that I find more accurate, but he adds a whole new generation – Generation Z. He also mentions that Generation Y-ers/Millennials/Echo Boomers are smart about technology and marketing because we’ve been exposed to it all since early childhood.
My dad was exposed to commercials and TV since his early childhood, so I can only assume that the “technology” referred to in Schroer’s description is computer-related. However, all of my friends born in the 80s joke about how none of their kids will know what it’s like to live in a world without smartphones, Wi-Fi, HDTV, etc. Computers were around in the early 80s, but they didn’t become more common in households until the late-80s, and even more so in the late 90s when dial-up internet (something post-90s babies missed out on) became easily accessible and affordable to the public. This article states that there were less than 500,000 PCs sold in the US in 1980, 7 million in 1984, and 10 million in 1989. In April 2013, Reuters reported industry concern as PC sales fell during the first quarter of the year to a mere 76.3 million units. So, when people are referring to the generation that has always known what it’s like to have access to personal computers and/or the internet, they surely are not talking about my generation.
That being said, I do believe that my generation is tech smart. More importantly, we are aware of cheap marketing strategies (even when we fall for them). I think this is less because we were born into a world saturated in technology and information and more because we were born into a world that was rapidly developing technology as a way to proliferate information. We grew up with giant boxes that sat beside other giant boxes and used giant keyboards to type in commands so that our computers would read our floppy discs (and not the 3.5″ ones either). Two discs later, and you were finally able to play The Oregon Trail! Alls I’m saying is that if you had to be able to figure out what your enemy and your partner were doing in a game of Contra in order to win, then you weren’t going to be convinced that you should eat cereal just because Mikey liked it. When you got older, why would you believe a car ad that told you a car was reliable when you could just do a Yahoo! search and see what Consumer Reports had to say about the issue? (Plus, those Yahoo! commercials were amusing.)
My generation grew up as computer technology rapidly evolved. We grew up as marketing geniuses thought of new ways to reach out to consumers. We were able to see how things were, what they had become, and we tried imagine where they would go. (We were able to do so because we grew up playing pretend instead of playing on our parents’ tablets and smartphones). My generation uses our smartphones to put books on hold at the library when we think that the cost of the eBook is too much and we’re not sure if we’ll really like the book enough to justify the cost and shelf space of buying the physical book. So, whatever the hell my generation is called, I like that we’re the last generation that will know the joy of coming home when our parents turned on the porch lights. I like that we enjoyed a game of four square on the blacktop at school as kids and that we now enjoy checking in to Four Square on our smartphones. If I had to name my generation, I would call it something like The Bridge (to Terabithia) Generation or The Link (saves Zelda) Generation because I like that my generation is sandwiched between two others that are vastly different, but that we can relate to both.