The 2016 election has surrounded itself with stress, much of which we will hopefully soon be able to forget. The election also defined the term “Millennial”. I am sure the term existed before the election but this process has brought the definition to the forefront, since the people of the “Millennial Generation” will be a force that will have a place in the election our new government.
Pew Research Center defines the Millennial Generation as those born after 1980, and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. Another name for the millennial is Generation Y. The Millennial generation follows Generation X in order of demography.
This generation is often associated with technology and social media. Since I’ve yet to meet a millennial without having a cell phone in hand, or earphones attached to some device to their ears, this definition is easy to understand. Their future will tell whether or not this is a good thing.
This is not the first generation of Americans to be categorized by chronology and history. The “Lost Generation”, which was the post-World War I generation, was actually a group of writers who came of age during the war and established their literary reputation. The decade for this generation was the 1920’s. The term was from a remark by Gertrude Stein to Ernest Hemingway.
Actually some people are calling the millennial generation the Lost Generation. This is because they are the product of the great recession that they are still feeling today. Similarly, the generation of men and women who came of age following World War I, as a result of their experiences and social upheaval, became cynical and disillusioned. Thus you have a situation of cultural and emotional instability.
Then came the “Greatest Generation”. This is a term made popular by journalist Tom Brokaw to describe the generation who grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. This is the generation of my mother and father who were challenged against remarkable odds.
They were the workers of a nation who desperately needed people that worked together in order to make the lives of their children better than what they could produce for themselves. We then evolved into the “Silent Generation”. These are people who grew up during a time when hard work and perseverance dominated.
The children who grew up during this time worked hard and kept quiet. This was a time where it was clearly understood that children should be seen and not heard. During this time, the House Committee on Un-American Activities launched an assault on political freedom.
Joseph McMarthy’s attempts to feed anti-communist sentiment made it dangerous for people to speak freely about their opinions. In other words, they became cautious about where they went and whom they were seen with. Thus, people became silenced.
Next came the “Baby Boomers”. I am very familiar with this generation because I was born in 1950. This makes it easy for me to determine my age. After the end of World War II, birth rates across the world spiked.
This was probably because the war took too many of its lives. The explosion of babies became known as the baby boom. Forty per cent of our nation was born during this time. This produced a large demand for consumer goods, thus stimulating the postwar economy.
Generation “X” was born after the baby-boomer-bust and was perceived to be disaffected and directionless. “Generation Xers” are the bridge between predominantly white baby-boomers and the more diverse millennial.
This overlooked generation is smack in the middle innings of life, which is short on drama and devoid of theme. This is the generation that is bookended by much larger generations. In other words, “Generation X” is the commercial between two evolutionary changes of our society.
We are now working our way through the Millenniums. This is the generation that is receiving the most attention. They are the most ethnically diverse, tolerant of difference, raised under the concept of “follow your dreams”, and are perpetually told they are special. This is normally a good thing but many have evolved into becoming entitled and narcissistic. They have also degraded because they are expected to be less economically successful than their parents.
“Generation Z” is predicted to follow the millennial. They are the first true digital natives. They can simultaneously create a document, edit it, post a photo, and talk on the phone. Generation Z takes in information quickly, and loses interest in it just as fast.
Since the age group of “Generation Z” is between 5 and 19 it is difficult to predict how they will define their generation. One can only hope it will be the generation of hard work and perseverance. They may have to be and only time will tell.
A Generation by any other name by Jim Fabiano.
Jim Fabiano is a retired teacher and writer living in York, Maine USA.