This week I’m getting unnecessarily nostalgic, and reflecting on what it was like to be amongst the first generation to grow up with the Internet…
Depending on who you ask, you will usually hear that the cut-off point between the Millennial Generation and Generation Z is somewhere between 1994 and 1996.
I was born at the end of 1995, which feels a bit like being stuck down the gap in the sofa.
Although I feel more like a Gen Z, I am the youngest of my entire family here in the UK (yes, I’m back, but just for a couple of weeks!) and most of my friends. Although, even if you swing five years one way or another, I think you’re unlikely to find many people that relate wholly to their assigned generation. Do my friends that are three, four, even five years older have a completely different perspective to me? I think the answer is no: they feel just as sofa-wedged as I do.
(By the way, if anyone knows: Who decides these things? Who decides what the generations are and what we should be calling them? Is there a generation committee?)
My sister asked me recently: What are the key things employers should be offering to attract and retain Gen Z workers? I found it difficult to answer. I know what my answer would be to that question, but I’m not sure that it’s the same as Gen Zs, or any of my other peers, in fact. So… does that make me a Millennial? Or does it just make someone that’s totally out of touch with anything?
I feel more like the awkward, slightly uncool older sister of my Gen Z friends, and I’m always surprised by their perspectives, confidence and self-assuredness. (If an employer could offer me self-assuredness, that’d be a job I’d never leave). I feel a bit young and lost to be a Millennial, though. When I think of Millennials, I think of people who have their shit together, and that’s not me for sure.
Read more from this series:
Straddling the Generations
Being caught between generations is like straddling two worlds. On one hand, I connect with the values and attitudes of Generation Z. The digital age, social media, and the desire for authenticity and uniqueness are all things that really resonate with me. I can’t pretend that I understand every single TikTok trend (I have a love-hate relationship with that app), but the cultural movement as a whole is something I am really behind. There’s a lot to be admired about the generations to come, and I think they’ll do a good job of the world they inherit.
On the other hand, Millennials were the OG self-starters, the open minded, the drivers of change. I still resonate with the idea that we should spend less time on our phones and more time doing something. Millennials are independent and go-getters, and I like to think there’s a bit of that in me, too.
I also think there are a lot of huge similarities between the two generations, and that the divide simply isn’t as clear-cut as choosing a year and drawing a line. How could it be that two people born just weeks apart could be so fundamentally different? I’m not buying it.
What really does shape society, and our culture, is the way we’re portrayed in the media, and therefore the way we see ourselves. I forever feel the need to choose a side. Are you a Millennial, or are you Gen Z? I don’t know, but I feel like I should. I feel like I have to pick a team and get behind everything they embody. Like trying to choose a political party to vote for when you don’t wholly believe in any of them.
The truth is that generational labels are just that: a label. How much can you really tell about someone from the year they were born? I know people younger than me that are surprisingly close-minded (read: sexist) and my (very beloved) grandad is surprisingly left wing (when he can understand what’s on his polling card!).
Right now, the world is changing at lightning speed. It feels as though soon we’ll have to create a new generation every five years to capture the vast changes that are happening. Who knows what the future holds?
Read more from this series…
Communication from Generation to Generation
All of this being said… I do think that it’s important to recognise when the world is changing. Communication is key, and that is a philosophy that I apply to almost everything in my life.
When I was experiencing cyber-bullying in school, I had no idea that myself and other people my age were the first people ever to experience it. Firstly, how crazy is that? And secondly, the fact that I didn’t know I was amongst the first generation to experience cyber bullying definitely impacted how I dealt with what was happening to me.
We learned about it in school: ‘If you’re being cyber bullied, tell a teacher’. But how do you know that you’re being cyber bullied? And what do you do if you don’t know the person that’s bullying you? Twelve years ago, these were unanswerable questions. There wasn’t the awareness that there is today, nor were there the same protections. Seriously, who came up with a social media platform that lets people send anonymous messages to people that they had to answer publicly?
I’m definitely one of those people that says I wouldn’t change a moment of my life. It shaped who I am today, and I wouldn’t change the journey I’ve been on.
I would change it for future generations, though, and I’m glad they can be protected from some of the atrocities that came with the birth of the internet.
Those of us stuck between generations; maybe we don’t have a name, but we witnessed something special. We witnessed the birth of social media and Web2, during what was already one of the most socially challenging times of our lives (read: school, and teenagehood). Maybe that should be a generation in itself.