The Who, What, Where, Why of Generations
Millennials and baby boomers: two terms you hear quite often these days in regards to society. Who are these terms referring to? Generations, right? But what do they mean? Is there a generational timeline that dictates where individuals fall, or is it more or less a group of behaviors that does that? Believe it or not, these terms are more than just cutesy little nicknames: they reflect a few well-known truths behind the very people they represent.
Let’s Start with Baby Boomers
We’ll start here because, to be honest, it’s the easiest place to start. The Baby Boomers are the only generation that can be strictly defined by time, and that’s pretty helpful when you consider that there is really no consensus on definitive generational perimeters other than that. So, with that, if you were born between 1946 and 1964, you are officially a Baby Boomer.
Sociological reasons for that label include growing up in the post-war economy, with a lower standard of living and emphasis on the nuclear family – both things that make the Baby Boomer generation (generally speaking) incredibly conservative and discrete.
So…Where Does Everyone Else Come In?
Everyone can take a look at history and see that the 60s and 70s brought about some intense societal changes, most of which stemmed from Civil Rights movements. Thus, in 1964, the Baby Boomer generation came to a close, and Generation X and Y were born. These folks really just act as the “in-betweeners” for Millennials and Baby Boomers. So, we’ll move right along.
The term “Millennial” is more or less a cultural term that defines a generation who was shaped less by conservative values, more by a drive for self-fulfillment and convenience. For that reason, the generation is a little harder to define, but we use what we know about Millennials to determine whether or not an individual falls in that category. Their lives revolve around technology and social media. Generations before them see them as entitled and difficult to work with, and Millennials just don’t really care.
Media and Culture
There used not to be such a drive to put people in cultural boxes, but there is now. This is a media-driven craze to put labels on things, on self. People toss around generational terms like they’re neat and clean and easy to assign, but the fact of the matter is… it’s just not that simple. Nobody wants to be stereotyped (maybe except for Millennials), but that’s what we’ve tried to do. In the wake of our needless designations, we’ve created confusion, offended people, and (probably) amused those who find themselves more in tune with a completely different generation.
For examples, some Baby Boomers are quick to snicker (or to take offense) when you suggest they invest too conservatively, or that they don’t understand certain technology; just like some Millennials might cringe at the thought of being lumped into a group of headstrong, arrogant 20-30somethings who flit from career to career only after they burn up their paychecks traveling the world. Bottom line? Generations are a convenient label, and like all stereotypes, are not easily defined as a whole and not always accurately.
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