A birth cohort, depending on which sociologist you talk to, is a certain group of people who were born in the same time period of fifteen to twenty years. I was born in the end of 1976, which puts me at the very end of generation x, though squarely in it. I was disappointed to learn this fact, and I tried to research to prove it wrong, but unfortunately, according to every sociologist out there, I am decidedly generation x. My high school years were full of rebellion and a pair of Doc Martins which I painted silver, followed by very large pants, tiny tee shirts with silly characters. It was the end of the generation x that I represented and the older x’ers didn’t accept me but my younger counterparts didn’t either. This alienation and this in between me officially dub, or name MillenX. Writers get to name generations, so I’m making up a generation and naming it. How very MillenX of me. Sure others have come before me to name us the same thing, and my point can be both labeled by generation Y and criticized to death by my older generation x ers, but I stand by my creation of this cohort category. My other millexers are busy doing work of consequence, and I am simply a writer.
It seems that popular culture has more to do with naming and cultivating discourse and that figures which predominate this realm have more power to create the discourse due to the fact that collective consciousness now within birth cohorts seems to be of corporate creation. We experience that which we watch. Online. On television. This is common knowledge, but what isn’t and what corporate America doesn’t want us to know is that fact that there is a huge cultural divide between the two birth cohorts which were originally planned by the great trade machines that be to work together.
Generation X, was founded on certain shared experiences and discourse within the birth cohort which started in 1961 and ended in 1981. It seems fitting that writers and other cultural figures would have the most influence on naming and defining Generation X than cultural theorists. Generation Y has a tendency to believe that perception is reality, whereas generation x has to have a tangibly reality to relate its experience to. The rise of the internet happened during the gen xer’s coming of age whereas Y grew up with it. This has everything to do with what perception was and is to a certain individual. Growing up seeing the Berlin wall coming down on television was a different experience than being able to access it whenever on the internet. The generation that just YouTube’s it doesn’t understand the value of actual tangible reality versus perception and that becomes a prominent topic of the cultural divide between x and y.
In literature, there have been movements such as the Ba Ling Huo in China which is comprised of people who were born in the eighties. Such novels as “Beijing Doll” are representative of this movement. China is a good example of a youth movement emerging as a culture itself in reference to a changing world culture. A Chinese generation X member grew up with a different view of the world than one born in the eighties. Their world view was that of fighting for freedom
Buzzfeed.com is certainly not the only source of information for news and commentary out there, but many members of generation Y are taking internet information as Gospel without checking and re-checking facts which can be problematic. At least Wikipedia admits to you ahead of time that the information might need to be fact checked. And then what is fact checking but going to another internet source that may or may not be correct.
Different attitudes in the workplace are interesting to study due to the “caged” nature of the sample of populous. When William Strauss and Neil Howe (the most contemporary sociologists studying generations) came up with their theories of generations as social constructs, it is not surprising that they spurned an industry of consulting for companies. They began studying the social concept of corporate America as not only a war zone, but also started to realize that there was a cultural divide between x and millennial.
An example of this that was of particular interest to me was my work in the summer of 2009 at a car dealership in upstate New York. It was the summer of “Cash for Clunkers”, the summer when Barack Obama made headlines offering cash incentives to dealerships and individuals to get “gas guzzling” vehicles off the road and replaced with more fuel efficient vehicles. The workers that the dealership employed represented generations x and y almost equally, which I swore was at the behest of the Federal Government, but in fact was not. Everyone my age congregated and spoke of shared cultural landmarks, but we were not allowed to let this show for fear of the younger workers feeling left out.
The work force grew to include several generations in order to attract the most business. I was, of course thrown to the proverbial wolves working with generation Y. They are presumed to be more tech savvy, which of course they are, which of course annoys me to no end. Now I am a bit more tech savvy than they think, but not much. Whenever I even went near a computer there was the snickering assumption that I couldn’t operate it as well as they could. In my case this assumption is true, and mind you there are generation x members that can run programming circles around generation Y, but not I.
The real problem with the culture of generation Y that is problematic is the proverbial labeling of everything. Everything is put into a category and then dismissed with impunity as if it never existed if the perception wasn’t labeled for them. Coming up with their own labels for things just doesn’t occur to them. Unless they are being hired to come up with a new website and they have to think of hyperlinks for sections. For example, when I asked a generation Y artist working at a coffee shop what she thought of generation x she was decidedly cautious and asked what type of article I was writing and I told her I was pursuing information about her generation and immediately the words op-ed came out of her mouth and the shutting down of emotion started. It was as if through labeling, she had put her opinion on a shelf where all the other people would have their opinions. The fact that I wanted her own opinion about what type of article it was did not register. I felt the agony of defeat as I went over and called a generation x friend and of course she said “yea. They label everything.”
Education of birth cohorts and the available technology within them started the cultural experience of generations which we now know today. According to social scientists, generations are birth cohorts which span certain time periods and share a certain set of physical realities which shape their experiences, thus creating a certain collective -consciousness which sets to define them as a group. Scientifically, they are birth groups that span twenty year periods. Why twenty years? What do I have in common with a generation xer that was born in 1961 when I myself was born in 1976? Interestingly enough I have more in common with the generation x member who was born in 1961. The answer has more to do with education than anything else. Shifts in technology have happened so rapidly that my high school taught me on a typewriter and literally started teaching the students only a few years after me on a computer. Hence: a cultural divide between me and my generation Y counterparts. Mostly, I have experienced this in the workplace where I have seen people only five years or even three years younger than myself tell bosses behind my back that I lack the necessary skills and that I should be fired. Be that as it may, the aspect of a “team player” and having respect for elders has seemed to die with generation x. Although many companies (according to Forbes magazine) warn against “fetishizing” younger workers due to their perceived mastery over newer technologies. Many other human resource theorists say that although generation x members are perceived to have a less cost effective presence in the workplace they have more influence over social movements and the arts. This could be due to the fact that art demands uniqueness of perspective and lower birth cohorts have the angle due to the fact that growing up, they were far more alienated and this very alienation lends itself to the artistic
The difference between myself and the millennial? A value system based on an acquired collective conscience and set of experiences. In Karl Jung’s Memories, Dreams and Reflections, he speaks of a consciousness born of collective identity built by social influences that people share in common. I grew up on hip hop which Jung would consider not just a common thread between myself and other generations, but also it would set the tone for a an even greater truth: that identity which I share with all generation x ers has grown into an identity which the next generation wishes for and doesn’t achieve. The alienation of the hip hop generation is not something that generation y will ever feel. Their sense of loneliness is different from ours. Therefore, I’m socialized differently than my parents. Clearly certain birth cohorts are trained differently in the education system due to the fact that school districts are allocated certain amounts of money for education of their children. For example: the parking lot of my high school was half the size that it is today: Why? More students, more tax revenue, bigger community etc. My typewriter Marketing and education could be the culprits.
Writers have a way of romanticizing everything, because that’s the job of any good fiction writer. Douglas Coupland (one of the eldest of generation x) helped coin the term with his novels and their disenfranchised tone with an artistic and outskirts malaise.
The Romance often ends with members of generation Y (the generation for which technology is a given). Generation X, though mostly tech savvy is often viewed by their younger piers as unable to utilize technology albeit an often alluring and techno-centric generation, sometimes the human touch just isn’t there in the cultural sense. Being raised largely by their Baby Boomer parents who may have deemed their generation x children the “black sheep”, they tend to take a dim view of generation x in the workplace and in the consumer market place. They often will test their older counter parts patience with a lack of respect and a sense of entitlement coupled with an assumption of incompetence. This usually angers the older worker and thus creates a divide in an organization.
Politically, generation X considers that the social movements, in particular the gay rights movement as we know it today, the feminist movement as we know it today and several others began with them. It could be argued that Baby Boomers had the strength in numbers to initiate change in terms of making the populous at large aware of the industrial military complex and its strangle hold on society( i.e. fighting Vietnam with peaceful protests etc.) Coming of age in the 1990s meant that you were on either side of the fence. Whilst generation Y takes credit for being more socially progressive, they do not take notice of their generation x antecedents who initiated the social changes which the Baby Boomers take credit for, yet failed to bring about. Certainly the advent of the internet made being an outsider with an unpopular opinion much easier bear.
Author - Nora A Bunk