America's Neglected Middle Child
April 14, 2018 5:58 PM   Subscribe

"The generation that is quickly occupying the majority of business leadership roles is one that's grown up playing video games, spends the most time shopping online, and uses social media more habitually than any other generation. If you were thinking it's millennials, that's probably because they've dominated the media's focus for the past decade. But it's actually Generation X."

"Although they aren't typically considered digital natives to the extent that millennials are, Gen X leaders are just as likely to be comfortable leveraging technology in the workplace: Some 54 percent of Gen X and 56 percent of millennials reported that they are digitally savvy. That finding is backed up by research by Nielsen, which revealed that Gen X is the most connected generation. Nielsen found that Gen Xers use social media 40 minutes more each week than millennials. They were also more likely than millennials to stay on their phones at the dinner table and spend more time on every type of device."

DDI: "Don't Underestmate the Power of Generation X"

Pew: There are roughly 65 million so-called Gen Xers, 77 million Boomers, and 83 million Millennials...but Gen X only spans 16 years, compared to ~20 years for others, which is why it has fewer people in it. "How come? No one really knows."

WaPo: Your Generational Identity is a Lie "It seems fairly arbitrary, for example, to put Gen X from 1964 to 1980, which is only a 16-year period. It doesn't really even span what most people would consider a generation."
posted by darkstar (155 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
It doesn't really even span what most people would consider a generation.

But it most definitely captures a zeitgeist. I have Boomer parents born around 1950 who had kids young. Some of their friends are Boomer parents born post-1950 who had kids in their 30s and 40s - Millennial kids. Their kids and I are not the same generation just because we share Boomer parents.
posted by Miko at 6:03 PM on April 14 [25 favorites]


spend more time on every type of device

yes it me
posted by poffin boffin at 6:05 PM on April 14 [42 favorites]


They were also more likely than millennials to stay on their phones at the dinner table and spend more time on every type of device

Gen Xers vividly remember the world before we could read anything we wanted anytime we wanted including when boring members of our family are talking to us and hell no we are not going back.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:09 PM on April 14 [192 favorites]


"Millennials, the “everybody-gets-a-trophy” generation[...]" - the Pew article

Am I imagining things or is that one of the things the Boomers slammed us Xers for, too? Really the only difference I see between what the Boomers bitch about in Millennials and what they bitch about in Xers is that we still had a functioning economy and a viable middle class in the Reagan years, which spared us endless thinkpieces about how Xers were "ruining" one industry or another because they were busy spending on things like "rent" and "food" instead of [insert luxury good here].
posted by egypturnash at 6:16 PM on April 14 [55 favorites]


Gen Xers vividly remember the world before we could read anything we wanted anytime we wanted including when boring members of our family are talking to us and hell no we are not going back.
The thing I read about this suggested that it's stage-of-life related. X-ers are more likely to have teenaged or pre-teen kids, parents with medical issues that they need help managing, and management positions at work. They're more likely to feel like they have to be available.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:22 PM on April 14 [13 favorites]


Some 54 percent of Gen X and 56 percent of millennials reported that they are digitally savvy.

At least 90% are badly deluded.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:26 PM on April 14 [37 favorites]


I'm a GenX Sr. Security Engineering Manager (my career trajectory is not topped out).

I grew in my early career working for many, many asshole bosses that were older than me who didn't fucking understand that I live first, work second. I was lucky to be able to find employment that "got it".

To me, we're here on earth to create experiences and memories. Most of what we build will be tomorrow's forgotten and derided dreams. The only thing we will have left are the memories we created along the way. Do we want them to be good, or do we want them to be shit? What will you look back upon and see in your time serving the capital master?

My hope is that my peers and direct reports see a life where yeah, you had to do shit you didn't want to do for money you wish didn't need, but at least we didn't petulantly treat each other like shit while fighting some meaningless pissing contest that amounted to a huge anxiety-ridden waste of time.

The vein of "Corporate Generation X" that I roll in, my friends, my peers, my colleagues and my direct reports, we all tend to have this similar idea. We have our principles, we pick our battles, but most importantly we strive to create as much joy and light as possible along this way so we have something to look back on that's not just a pile of regrets caused by working for the man without question or principle.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:30 PM on April 14 [60 favorites]


Also holy crap the other names listed in this Washington Post graphic. Gen X is a shitty name but "20-Nothings"? Holy crap, Life magazine of 1993. Eat my entire ass.

(also judging by this graphic there is one year that is neither Boomer nor Xer. '63 it looks like? Pity the poor Boom-X Cusp microgeneration. Just a little too young to be part of the generation engaged in endless media self-fellation, too old to vanish into the sweet sweet anonymity of GenX.)
posted by egypturnash at 6:32 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


The thing is we had a taste of things not sucking in the 60s and 70s, and then everything started sucking before we were old enough to fix it, and now everything really sucks, and we would REALLY like to fix it, but the fucking Boomers aren't dead yet and hold all the capital. SO FRUSTRATING.

Meantime, we'll try and keep things on an even keel until our parents are mostly dead, and while we'll be pretty tired, the Millennials will have a real shot at making things really right -- and the energy to do it, along with the kids of today -- and you bet your ass we'll back them up.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:39 PM on April 14 [56 favorites]


we had a taste of things not sucking in the 60s and 70s,

If you were a cis-het, able-bodied, white, middle class man, I guess.
posted by greermahoney at 6:45 PM on April 14 [31 favorites]


13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? is the best analysis of us as a generation that I’ve come across.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:45 PM on April 14 [14 favorites]


And this reminds me that I needed to post a job opening on my team to metafilter jobs. which I just did.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:46 PM on April 14 [8 favorites]


I can't see "13th gen" without thinking about White Wolf LARPing, lmao.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:46 PM on April 14 [13 favorites]


I recently revisited (warnings: self link, twitter thread) the Atlantic article that became the 13th Gen book. Basically: the observations are still somewhat accurate, the analysis seems a little off in hindsight, and the predictions didn't turn out well at all.
posted by fedward at 6:53 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


I feel like I've seen the same "ugh we're so fucking tired but the next generation seems like they've got the energy to fix things" sentiment from self-identified Millennials re: whatever the next one down is (Gen Z?). To some extent I'm sure it's a function of just straight up age -- people twenty years your junior are just going to have more youthful energy on average, probably -- but it also says to me that there's a possibility of endless generational pass-the-buck, and that I should be alert to this in my own exhaustions.
posted by inconstant at 6:54 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


We weren't even supposed to be here today!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:55 PM on April 14 [66 favorites]


If you were a cis-het, able-bodied, white, middle class man, I guess.

Yes, that part sucked. The high marginal tax rates and strong financial regulations allowed the emergency of a very strong middle class. If we could extend that same vision equitably that would be really awesome.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:00 PM on April 14 [18 favorites]


We weren't even supposed to be here today

I have sads when I drop that choice quote at work and no one has a clue what I’m talking about.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:02 PM on April 14 [33 favorites]


Ours was the first American generation that was told, in no uncertain terms, that we would have a lower standard of living than our parents. I think I remembered reading that in Time freakin' magazine.

Becoming a slacker seemed like a logical life choice.
posted by Laura Palmer's Cold Dead Kiss at 7:03 PM on April 14 [42 favorites]





I have sads when I drop that choice quote at work and no one has a clue what I’m talking about.


I had a realization a few months ago that my red Swingline stapler turns 20 next year.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:08 PM on April 14 [35 favorites]


the world is accelerating, in that it feels like there's a big generation gap between me, a very standard millennial, and people about three years younger than me, who are all playing Fortnite and Minecraft and listening to Lil Xan and have incomprehensible memes.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:34 PM on April 14 [7 favorites]


I’ve had conversations with my supervisor, who’s a year older than me, about writing a bot to translate our cultural references in Slack to something the coworkers literally half our age can understand. It’s weird.
posted by yerfatma at 7:34 PM on April 14 [6 favorites]


So here's the thing that drives me crazy as a genxer: the baby boomers need to hurry up and get out of their top tier jobs so those of us in middle management can move up. The Millennials don't have the amount of experience to do this yet, which leaves us Xers. But the goddamn boomers! They would rather retire in place, doing as little work as possible. Boomers and Millennials seem to share the same "I'm the center of the universe, so yay me" thing, when we just really want to put our heads down, get shit done, and then go home and be left alone. Harrumph.
posted by floweredfish at 7:46 PM on April 14 [29 favorites]


I enthusiastically identify as Gen X in social and professional settings because it keeps the fuckers off balance
posted by Caxton1476 at 7:47 PM on April 14 [6 favorites]


Gen X, we saw Slint and Nirvana live. That's all you need to know.
posted by misterpatrick at 7:47 PM on April 14 [13 favorites]


can't see "13th gen" without thinking about White Wolf LARPing,

So what I’m hearing is that diablerie of the 12th generation is a perfectly reasonable way to advance?
posted by corb at 8:02 PM on April 14 [12 favorites]


Gen X, we saw Slint and Nirvana live. That's all you need to know.

Not me, I saw Pixies and Pavement and Jesus and Mary Chain, but then they all got back together and went on tour again and now those millennial jagoffs all got to see them too, but to be fair it serves me right for seeing the Sex Pistols reunion tour in 1996 and thinking I was the shit
posted by escabeche at 8:05 PM on April 14 [17 favorites]


In conclusion, reality really does bite
posted by escabeche at 8:05 PM on April 14 [53 favorites]


I drank OK Soda at a grunge concert. Beat that.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:15 PM on April 14 [14 favorites]


We were a test market for OK Soda. And my friend Jeff designed the Frutopia cans. The Replacements played my highschool mixer. I got X bona fides.
posted by misterpatrick at 8:26 PM on April 14 [17 favorites]


Gen X leaders are just as likely to be comfortable leveraging technology in the workplace: Some 54 percent of Gen X and 56 percent of millennials reported that they are digitally savvy

In addition to the time-of-life issue identified above, Gen Xers were the ones coming up when the mechanics and underpinnings of the current Internet were being built, before everything was walled off. A Millennial "digital native" not actually in the tech industry knows how to make a Facebook post. Gen Xers, regardless of specialization, had to write their own HTML. I know we've been adding layers of abstraction and thus usability to tech for generations now ("bah, these kids couldn't use punch cards to save their lives!!!"), but I feel like there's been a qualitative change over the past 15 years, where ordinary users have been completely fenced out of the inner workings of the tech they use and, although the machines themselves are more powerful (pretty sure my SE has more processing power than the desktop I used in college), the capabilities of any individual are ever more limited. This is a function of capitalism and design choices: you get a tool constructed to have an operation that is opaque to you and to have only circumscribed uses.
posted by praemunire at 8:42 PM on April 14 [74 favorites]


I love how being Gen X we can be all 'ooh, millennials and their technology' when we've embraced it just as much. But I think the key is that they grew up with all this information at their finger tips and didn't have to do school assignments based on a 1970 set of world book encyclopaedias. So, we feel they don't appreciate things as much. My childhood was as free range as my parents' - roaming around all day, home in time for dinner, rules about TV because there was only one and dad had to watch the news so if you missed your show, tough, you might never ever see that episode again. Parents didn't try and provide entertainment, it was 'go outside and play, only boring people get bored, I don't care if it's raining, wear your raincoat!'

The younger siblings (15-20 years younger) didn't have any of that so it doesn't mean the same to them to have this access. But I feel sorry for them for missing out yet equally compelled when they are told off for phone usage at the dinner table to remind them that Mommy isn't being mean to them, that back in my day I had to stand at a phone box in the cold if I wanted to chat with friends because we had a 5 min max phone rule at home (and I had to walk to school up hill both ways fighting off bears and dragons).
posted by kitten magic at 8:49 PM on April 14 [34 favorites]


I was born in 1972 to a Mom who is a boomer, and a Dad ten years older. So.....yeah
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 8:57 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


I never really did figure out which generation I was supposed to be a member of. I was born in '64 and some lists peg me as a Boomer and some as GenX but I never really felt much affinity to either. The real Boomers were already going crazy in college when I was in Kindergarten but the the time that the next generation was dubbed GenX by Coupland in 1991, I was already a boring dad and a homeowner and wasn't exactly going out to Grunge concerts. So I don't know.
posted by octothorpe at 8:58 PM on April 14 [11 favorites]


Just a quick comment about the "everyone gets a trophy" generation- who was handing out those trophies, hey? Boomer rage at millenials is perhaps reflexive- annoyed at themselves that we didn't turn out better. Gen X escapes this a bit.
posted by freethefeet at 8:58 PM on April 14 [17 favorites]


I never really did figure out which generation I was supposed to be a member of.

"Generation membership" especially for edge cases depends more on what your cohort group was growing up. Were you amongst older kids and so experiencing the same historical events through their lens or with younger kids and so sharing the same events with them?

Generation membership is less about when you were born and more about how history rolled by you and what your influences and responses were to it as it went through your life. It's about being a part of a cohort and not about when you were born.
posted by hippybear at 9:02 PM on April 14 [13 favorites]


I think what screwed me over in generational things was I did kindergarten in 1978 and today, I should a been in school in 1977.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 9:13 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


I'm Gen X, and I tell my daughter that "back in my day, if you saw a movie and were like 'hey that one actor looks familiar, didn't I see him in something else?' there was NO WAY to find out! You would just have to go the rest of your life and not ever know!". But now we have phones, and imdb and wikipedia etc, so knowledge of just about anything you can think of is just a few taps away. So yeah, I use my phone a lot.

Although I wish I'd had access to the internet when I was a kid, I was young and stupid and even more foolish than I am now, and I think socially it would have been a horrible disaster.

Sometimes when I watch movies/tv from an age before cell phones/smart phones, I just think back to how it was when you had memorized the phone numbers of your friends and family, and you had no idea of what people were up to and where they were etc unless both you and they were near a phone and you called them. How did we ever survive?
posted by cats are weird at 9:13 PM on April 14 [14 favorites]


Memorized phone numbers are still a good idea. One never knows when one might need one or three or a dozen.
posted by hippybear at 9:16 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


I actually keep a tiny folded post it note in my wallet with all the important phone numbers I might need, written really tiny and crammed on there. Because you never know what might happen.
posted by cats are weird at 9:19 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


Gen X, we saw Slint and Nirvana live. That's all you need to know.

That and and the fact that many of our formative childhood years were during the Cold War, when there was imminent threat of nuclear annihilation.

I know I'm not the only Gen-Xer to have grown up under the shadow of "there are these really big bombs somewhere that can kill everyone in the whole world and they can go off at any minute". And I have always believed that being a kid and holding that thought in your head fucks you up. Y'all have read about how terrified people were when they saw the film Threads, or even just The Day After - now imagine being that terrified at the age of twelve.

Back in 1988, my first year of college, I took a course in "Nuclear War And Its Prevention" - and the professor asked us an essay question in the final exam about "what do you think could contribute to preventing nuclear war?" I said exactly that - that my generation was the first to have actually lived as children with the full understanding of the true scope of nuclear annihilation we were facing. Yeah, our parents had had the "duck and cover" drills as kids, but that was back in the days when people thought you could survive that stuff. Now we knew better. And we were kids finding this out, which must have messed with us. And, I argued, it most likely would affect our voting and leadership habits as adults - we would want to avoid total nuclear war as a result of that early terror. So all we had to do was hang in there long enough for Gen X to start voting, going into politics, and assuming leadership, and that would lessen the likeihood of someone ever taking that step. My professor commented that mine was the first such generational argument he'd ever come across, and it was food for thought.

....Obama made pretty big strides towards nuclear disarmament - and technically he is part of Generation X. I rest my case.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 PM on April 14 [45 favorites]


floweredfish, uh, wow. I’m an Xennial. Pretty sure my Boomer parents are just trying to deal with the fact that they got screwed out of a stable retirement and have to keep working if they want to live. And pretty sure Millennials are trying to deal with the fact that they graduated college into a shit economy, had to work minimum wage jobs for years, and are now “unhireable” because their resumes reflect the shit jobs they had to take to get by. I’m sorry you feel unloved, but can we not do the lazy attack stereotypes?
posted by snowmentality at 9:27 PM on April 14 [13 favorites]


Oh, man, The Day After. And the Challenger explosion. And "Tear Down This Wall". And I actually visited the Inter-German Border in '86-87. I've been to (then West) Berlin, I've seen the Cold War first-hand.

Our current state of Eternal War isn't anything like the Cold War. But it's starting to head in that direction, although I doubt it will be called "Cold" by any measure.
posted by hippybear at 9:40 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


X-ers are more likely to have teenaged or pre-teen kids, parents with medical issues that they need help managing, and management positions at work. They're more likely to feel like they have to be available.
Ah yes. Those are exactly the reasons I spend so much time on Facebook.

The thing is we had a taste of things not sucking in the 60s and 70s. My formative childhood "outside world" memories are the Vietnam War, the fall of Saigon, the Energy Crisis, and Watergate. Explain to me again about the not-sucking part?
posted by drlith at 9:41 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


The thing is we had a taste of things not sucking in the 60s and 70s, and then everything started sucking before we were old enough to fix it, and now everything really sucks, and we would REALLY like to fix it, but the fucking Boomers aren't dead yet and hold all the capital. SO FRUSTRATING.

As a gen-Xer born in 1979, those 8 months I witnessed as an infant really didn't leave much of an impression on me.
posted by daybeforetheday at 9:42 PM on April 14 [10 favorites]


Oh man, I was so young when my parents sat me down in front of the television and made me watch this jowly man make a statement on television, telling me it was Important That I See This. It was Nixon resigning. I was, I think 6?
posted by hippybear at 9:42 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


Boomer - set.
Generalizing a bit here but:

Next generation: Did you use records or tapes and CDs as your formative music collection method (and not ironically)? Records? You are Gen X. You probably didn't have high speed internet at home or even until you well into college. You probably did have a laptop or some type of computer. You most assuredly had some sort of 'internet' at your first fancy job. HBO, MTV, and a big satellite dish in your back yard was so cool. This was the nuclear war generation.

Tapes & CDs? You had dial up at home and high speed your freshman year in college. This is the middle lost generation that really has little in common with true Gen-X. Did you have a cell phone that fit in your pocket in college before you graduated? Yes? Then you belong to this middle generation. You probably also remember the megahertz wars of cordless phones.

Next generation (Millenials): MP3s. Fancy cell phones. High speed internet. DVRs. Could you record videos of yourself doing crazy things and put them online in high school or in your early college years? Yes? Then you belong to the millennial generation.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:46 PM on April 14 [16 favorites]


I have something like that on another post about arbitrary generation boundaries. Since it's a cultural construct, using pop culture makes more sense than dates. Shit like "vinyl, tapes, CDs, MP3s or streams", "vhs, dvd or Netflix" or similar questions around TV shows, films, sports, internet usage, consumer goods and media consumption, etc. When I was making a poster for a 90s themed party, it was amusing to see how most references I made from "my" 90s flew way above the head of the fellow kids (who were anything between -2 and 10 when the Millennium Ball dropped) the party was aimed at.

It's one study I'd like to do. Particularly since it would be interesting to see how that is affected geographically.

Also, as a very young Xer or a fucking old millennial, I spent a good part of a day thinking how Moby's Play is almost 20 fucking years old. When I notice the time is coming on Melody AM, I'll probably go into a full on existencial crisis.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:47 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


also judging by this graphic there is one year that is neither Boomer nor Xer. '63 it looks like? Pity the poor Boom-X Cusp microgeneration. Just a little too young to be part of the generation engaged in endless media self-fellation, too old to vanish into the sweet sweet anonymity of GenX.

The pain is real.

Moby's Play is almost 20 fucking years old

Pretty Hate Machine is 30 next year.
posted by bongo_x at 11:05 PM on April 14 [8 favorites]


Pretty Hate Machine is 30 next year.

You shut up and I hate you!!! *runs into bedroom and slams door, throwing self on bed crying*
posted by hippybear at 11:12 PM on April 14 [52 favorites]


I’m sorry you feel unloved, but can we not do the lazy attack stereotypes?

They said, attacking lazily.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:14 PM on April 14 [10 favorites]


The Boomers are why Husker Du, The Feelies, The MC5, The Minutemen, and The Dead Kennedys will never, ever get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

That is all.

*53 year old grumbles bitterly to himself while clicking post comment*
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:35 PM on April 14 [25 favorites]


When I was growing up, I was told we were the "Sesame Street Generation." It started in 1969; we were possibly the first generation to have an educational kid's tv show designed to encourage diversity and cultural awareness.

The songs that stuck in my head were Daddy Dear, Ladybug Picnic, and of course, Rubber Ducky.

(Something-something educational songs mumble Schoolhouse Rock...)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:36 PM on April 14 [19 favorites]


The Boomers are why Husker Du, The Feelies, The MC5, The Minutemen, and The Dead Kennedys will never, ever get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Yeah, and Lisa Loeb and Crowded House.
posted by waving at 12:54 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


my friend Jeff designed the Frutopia cans

Now that's a thing I've forgotten about for, what, two decades? Oh.
posted by Standard Orange at 1:19 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Millenials, Gen x, stupid names for everything.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:06 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Depending on who wrote the article, I'm either a Gen Xer, Millennial, both, or neither. I remember when I was in college and for a few years after, all the articles on generations were basically Gen X as Goofus and Millennial as Gallant, but then they switched to blaming Millenials for not being raised right and complaining how they kept feeling entitled to a living wage and health benefits when we were already giving them foosball tables. Same thing is happening with the next generation now, where some people are still calling them driven and idealistic while others are already saying they're entitled jerks demanding safe spaces where their bodies won't get riddled with bullets from high-powered rifles.

Anyway, I blame Strauss and Howe, who were all, "We can predict the future generations with total disregard for any events that may happen in the future!" despite the fact that their generation, as well as the two before it were defined entirely as they related to WWII. Then people continued to basically use their generational definitions despite the end of the cold war, the rise of the internet, September 11 attacks, smartphones, etc.
posted by ckape at 2:29 AM on April 15 [10 favorites]


A Millennial "digital native" not actually in the tech industry knows how to make a Facebook post. Gen Xers, regardless of specialization, had to write their own HTML

How young do you think millennials are? It starts at like 1982, meaning Facebook didn't exist until after a lot of us had entered adulthood. I was born closer to the tail end of the 80s, and I remember life before Windows, never mind the Internet or Facebook.
posted by Dysk at 3:20 AM on April 15 [9 favorites]


How young do you think millennials are? It starts at like 1982, meaning Facebook didn't exist until after a lot of us had entered adulthood. I was born closer to the tail end of the 80s, and I remember life before Windows, never mind the Internet or Facebook.

Someone above suggested we're sort of missing from this discussion, which is a position I have some sympathy for. Because I do seem to be too old for much of the generalising about millennials, but, for instance, the Cold War was over before I knew nuclear weapons existed.
posted by hoyland at 4:01 AM on April 15 [6 favorites]


I’d say the Gen X’ers are the only generation that agrees with what is written about them and are pretty happy about it. Boomers and Millenials are treated like shit because most of the articles written about generational flaws are written by gen X’ers. That’s the dirty secret of generation X, a generation that was named and defined by itself which proceeded to shit on the others.
posted by SageLeVoid at 4:11 AM on April 15 [13 favorites]


I'm just over the cusp between boomer and gen X - my parents were pre-boomer, I have some much older siblings (next-youngest is 8 years older than me and one is a Vietnam-era veteran) who are clearly boomers, but I'm definitely not. A couple of my peers at work are within a few years of my age, and I'm not sure what the younger folks at work think when I say things like "All I wanted was a Pepsi, and she wouldn't give it to me", "Can you describe the ruckus".

Boomers may be treated like crap now in thinkpieces, but that's after decades of being the generation that was going to change the world. Well, they did, but perhaps not as they expected.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:51 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Tapes & CDs? You had dial up at home and high speed your freshman year in college. This is the middle lost generation that really has little in common with true Gen-X. Did you have a cell phone that fit in your pocket in college before you graduated? Yes? Then you belong to this middle generation. You probably also remember the megahertz wars of cordless phones.

This is the Oregon Trail Generation. We all died of dysentery.

We’re the last generation to remember a world before the Internet and to have an adolescence without social media.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:15 AM on April 15 [33 favorites]


I never really did figure out which generation I was supposed to be a member of.

"Generation membership" especially for edge cases depends more on what your cohort group was growing up. Were you amongst older kids and so experiencing the same historical events through their lens or with younger kids and so sharing the same events with them?


I think of it instead as being about political power. The 1965-1970s kids were too late to the party to enjoy the perks the boomers got like student grants instead of student loans, cheap tuition and such but then were too old for the corrective measures boomers then granted to their kids like age related scholarships and programs. We were the non-generation where they started pulling up the ladder.

It was still better than the fucked over generations that came later when tuition exploded and jobs completely vanished so we don't even get to complain.
posted by srboisvert at 5:32 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I guess that I was right at the end of the cheap tuition era. When I started at Penn State in 1982, I was mostly able to cover tuition by working in a sheet metal shop during the summer. I ended up with about $2500 in loans by the time I dropped out after four and a half years and no degree.
posted by octothorpe at 5:42 AM on April 15


"It seems fairly arbitrary, for example, to put Gen X from 1964 to 1980, which is only a 16-year period. It doesn't really even span what most people would consider a generation."

I've always looked at Gen X this way. If you're too young to remember the assassination of JFK, you aren't a Boomer. If you're too young to remember the assassination of John Lennon, you aren't Generation X, so that's mid 50s to early 70s. The tweener generation. Too young to remember the post war economic boom. Too old to have grown up with home computers and cable.
posted by Beholder at 6:30 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


The discussion about generations and what ages and years and what you were old enough to remember, especially around tech, always seems to miss the massive regionality and class elements of the last, and I think that is where a lot of the divide comes from. I'm solidly a millennial by any definition, but I too very much remember a world without the internet, home computers being rare, using card catalogs and big ancient encyclopedias for high school projects, when all news came at 8 and 10pm or the morning paper. I grew up kinda poor in a kinda poor and depopulated part of the country that simply didn't feel those changes as fast, or didn't have them offered. The town I lived in only got internet a couple years ago, and it is brutally slow and expensive, so there are probably still kids growing up without the internet. I assume a variation is true for people who grew up poor in some urban environments as well.

This is to say that introducing who remembers what tech into the discussion is probably not an effective variable to look at because that relies on so many other factors. I certainly feel like a millenial from a socio-economic point of view, but not so much from a tech point of view.
posted by neonrev at 6:48 AM on April 15 [24 favorites]


Yeah, I'm going to have to join those expressing skepticism at the Facebook comment (which came off as somewhat snooty to me, to be honest). Looking it up, Facebook was 2004, and didn't open to all registrants until 2006. Those born between "the early 1980s and the mid-1990s" include people who would have been 24 by the time Facebook was even a blip on the radar! And HTML is hardly some kind of arcane programming language. Consider the meme about kids learning HTML by handcoding profile pages on Neopets -- actual kids, like twelve-year-olds and such. Looking that up, the golden years seem to have been 1999-2005, which if you use "twelve-year-old" as the central point of reference, captures most of those which would have even been able at all to use Facebook in their formative years.

That's not even touching on the access issues that neonrev details, which encompass not only affordability but also the existence at all of the required infrastructure.
posted by inconstant at 6:57 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


As far as demographers are concerned, the Boomer cohort is 1946-1964. The year 1946 is the first full year after the hostilities of World War II were over, so that means we have the earliest year of the cohort nailed down. As expected, civilians returning from World War II had lots of babies, which led to a massive bulge in the birth rate graph all over the world. At least in the United States, that bulge didn't stop bulging until 1964, which is how we nail down the ending year of the baby boom cohort.

From a demographer's standpoint, Boomers are ridiculous easy to define as a cohort, especially because they were the largest rising generational cohort in history. Generation X, the Millennials, and beyond are much harder to define from a paint-by-number demographer's standpoint, because the bulges and dips in the birth rate graph aren't as clear going forward.

These demographic cycle of rising and lowering birth rates are boring for some commentators because they are much less amenable to pop-cultural Zeitgeist analysis, but they matter a great deal for macroeconomic reasons. The postwar Baby Boom happened because those Boomer parents who survived World War II had very strong reasons for believing that they would have a more economically optimistic future than they had before. Hence, they had lots of babies. However, these demographic bulges contain the seeds of their own destruction. Eventually, you get to a point where incoming birth cohorts are so large it exceeds the capacity of the larger macroeconomy to absorb them all. As a result, people expect that they will have a much less economically optimistic future, which leads them to cut back on having babies, and thus the birth rate falls.

This large-scale view of generations as driven by booms & busts in the birth rate is often at odds with the more micro view of generations as defined by shocking historical events that define political consciousness (the JFK assassination, 9/11), by technology (pre-Internet vs. "digital natives"), or by cultural signifiers (whether you played Oregon Trail or not). Yes, the Baby Boom cohort is coherent from a demographic standpoint of looking at boom-and-bust cycles of the birth rate, but that doesn't mean the 1946-1964 cohort is culturally coherent. Most of the sociological research I've seen on "generation-defining events" suggest that the 1946-1964 Baby Boom cohort is basically split in two between the "early Boomers" who were old enough to hear about the JFK assassination as kids in school (and thus they have very vivid "flashbulb memories" of the event) and "late Boomers" who were too young to have a visceral experience of the JFK assassination. Instead, "late Boomers" are more likely to name the Vietnam War or Watergate as a generation-defining experience for them.
posted by jonp72 at 7:16 AM on April 15 [9 favorites]


I'm Gen X, and I tell my daughter that "back in my day, if you saw a movie and were like 'hey that one actor looks familiar, didn't I see him in something else?' there was NO WAY to find out! You would just have to go the rest of your life and not ever know!"

I’ve spent my entire adult life wondering if a character who appeared on a Cheers episode was based on my high school English teacher. I thought I was very with it and Internet savvy until recently, when it finally occurred to me that I could just Google the writer of that episode and email her to ask. So I did, and she answered! A question that had been plaguing me for 30 years was answered within 30 minutes.

A lot of things lately are making me feel old, but nothing more so than how blown away I was by this.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 7:24 AM on April 15 [9 favorites]


Douglas Coupland was born in 1961, so doesn't that make him a Boomer?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:00 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I'm Gen X, and I tell my daughter that "back in my day, if you saw a movie and were like 'hey that one actor looks familiar, didn't I see him in something else?' there was NO WAY to find out! You would just have to go the rest of your life and not ever know!"

I remember having a long drunken argument in the 80s over which dumb comedies had Tom Hanks or Michael Keaton in them. I think that someone was sure that Tom Hanks was in Gung Ho and no amount of arguing would sway him.
posted by octothorpe at 8:11 AM on April 15


I've always looked at Gen X this way. If you're too young to remember the assassination of JFK, you aren't a Boomer. If you're too young to remember the assassination of John Lennon, you aren't Generation X, so that's mid 50s to early 70s.

Accepting via jonp72 that demographics really are better than cultural milestones, nonetheless if you were ever halfway-reasonably worried you might get drafted for Vietnam, like men born in the mid 50s were, you're a boomer.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:27 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I think of us as the Muppet Generation.
posted by matildaben at 8:30 AM on April 15 [17 favorites]


As far as demographers are concerned, the Boomer cohort is 1946-1964. […] At least in the United States, that bulge didn't stop bulging until 1964, which is how we nail down the ending year of the baby boom cohort.

I do think Strauss & Howe had a pretty good argument for 1961, but I wouldn't defend it as the only acceptable boundary. It feels a little long-tail-ish, really, where the advent of the Pill in 1961 is the start of the shift and 1964 is the end of it, the effect of a creeping social change. As the saying goes, the future isn't evenly distributed.

But I still don't know what really makes 1981 the best cutoff year for Gen X, although it does feel right to me. That said, we always used to say on a.s.g-x that if you felt like you belonged, you did.
posted by fedward at 8:37 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


When I started at Penn State in 1982, I was mostly able to cover tuition by working in a sheet metal shop during the summer.

I remember my boss telling me that in the 1970's she paid for a year of tuition plus a brand new car with the earnings from one summer of farm work.

When I was in college in the 90's, I had enough scholarships and grants to cover tuition, but I was still working full-time year-round just to pay the bills. (And books, and fees, and all those expenses nobody warns you about.) I've never bought a new car, and never will
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:44 AM on April 15 [5 favorites]


speaking of a.s.g-x, weaver's infamous tired rant hasn't aged very well

YOU DONT EVEN KNOW FROM TIRED, KID, JUST YOU WAIT ANOTHER 25 YEARS
posted by entropicamericana at 8:46 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


This quote feels right to Gen-X me: While Gen X leaders are often under-recognized for the critical role they play in leadership, they are typically expected to take on heavy workloads.
posted by doctornemo at 8:55 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Weaver's rant turns 24 this month, apparently. On the bright side it took 24 years for 80s retro to happen, though.
posted by fedward at 8:57 AM on April 15


Leave Gen X Out Of Your Bullshit Generation Wars!
posted by symbioid at 9:01 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


At some point I realized I didn’t have the right stuff to serve on the front lines of the Internet Revolution, so I went the other direction and now I work with stuff written on parchment, and/or with pens made out of feathers.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:31 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


On the bright side it took 24 years for 80s retro to happen, though.

They were having 80s-themed parties when I was in college in the late 90s. We used to joke that early-90s nostalgia would arrive any day. 80s retro has lasted far longer than the actual 80s.
posted by the_blizz at 9:37 AM on April 15 [6 favorites]


I meant less in a ha-ha party theme way and more that all the trendy clothing now basically looks like my high school. It's bright colors, high waisted jeans, and even shoulder pads all over again.
posted by fedward at 9:43 AM on April 15


i think this may be meta-nostalgia for the retro 80s trend of the early 2000s, rather than first-order 80s nostalgia.
posted by vogon_poet at 10:07 AM on April 15 [7 favorites]


I drank OK Soda at a grunge concert. Beat that.


I've sold smart drinks, nootropics and glowsticks at a rave while wearing rollerblades and something holographic and shiny?
posted by loquacious at 10:13 AM on April 15 [6 favorites]




what-ever, noobs!
posted by evilDoug at 10:21 AM on April 15


How young do you think millennials are?

I consider myself as someone on the leading edge of millennials at a couple years into my 30s, and one of the things I've noticed is that the prototypical millennial keeps getting younger. I think it got frozen at "college student" at some point, and as every new year of students started finding their political voice, they became the poster children for millennial.

That might be ending finally; I feel like there's a consensus that the generation in high school now is no longer millennial. Whether the public conception of millennials will stay at the younger end, or if having reached a lower bound it will move back to the middle, I don't know.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:28 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


1987:

Boomer (my dad): (rhetorically) why do you waste so much time playing on the computer?

Gen-X (me): Observes that Boomer always asks this while flipping through TV channels looking for some reason to sit there watching TV; says nothing.

2017, Christmas visit:

Boomer (my dad): I think we have an American Pickers marathon on the DVR... should we watch that or HGTV?

Gen-X (me): half-glances up from laptop, grunts.
posted by Foosnark at 10:29 AM on April 15 [17 favorites]


UK boomer here. I can remember free school milk (tepid, vile), finally terminated by milk-snatcher Thatcher. I reached the right age to appreciate the existence of the pill without ever having to imagine something like AIDs (or herpes, or any other STD). I saw the rise of the Beatles, Stones and James Bond and went to University with a full grant (tuition fees and subsistence largely covered by the state gratis). My development was aided by the NHS at its peak and I have spent much of my life in the EU.

There are times when I wish I could be younger again, not sure whether I'd want that to be now.
posted by epo at 10:37 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Boomer (my dad): (rhetorically) why do you waste so much time playing on the computer?

Oh god I got this too. Even more ironic (in our Alanis Morrissette Gen X definition of "ironic") is that my parents always had top-end PCs since they had to run AutoCAD – they were drafter-designers. In other words, they literally made a living with their PCs and yet still got on my case about always being on the PC.

I ended up being on the leading edge of translators who did IT work (there weren't many of us in 2000), and successfully transitioned into IT and later general management. Because I spent so much childhood free time on computers.

What I've noticed is that Gen X is one of (if not the?) first international/global generations. Everywhere I've gone in the world, people my age share at least a few cultural touchstones. They're always a bit different of course, but they're definitely there. Whereas the equivalent of a French "boomer" will have very different cultural touchstones from an American, for instance – French cars, films, books, TV and movie stars were really their own thing until the 1970s/1980s. They still are, but it's not as wide a difference as before.
posted by fraula at 10:38 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Behold, the perfect visual metaphor for the middle child that is Generation X:

Boomers, Boomers, Boomers!
posted by New Frontier at 10:38 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Am I imagining things or is that one of the things the Boomers slammed us Xers for, too?

Funny thing is the Boomers were the first recipients of this accusation. Give us Gen-Xers credit; when we slam Millennials, it's for being fragile, not self-absorbed.
posted by Edgewise at 10:39 AM on April 15


I don’t really find any joy in thinking that my generation has some edge or greater principle than any subsequent generation after me.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:53 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


My parents sat me down in front of the television and made me watch this jowly man making a statement, telling me It Was Important That I See This. It was Nixon resigning. I was, I think, 6?

My sister was 6 that summer, too; I'd turned 9 a couple of months before. We thought Watergate was a TV show, featuring nothing but old men in suits and ties, that had -- inexplicably -- pre-empted all other programming on every channel. All four of them. (ABC, CBS, NBC and what we thought of as "The 'Sesame Street' Channel.")
posted by virago at 11:14 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


I'm Gen X, and I tell my daughter that "back in my day, if you saw a movie and were like 'hey that one actor looks familiar, didn't I see him in something else?' there was NO WAY to find out! You would just have to go the rest of your life and not ever know!"

Ha! I’m also Gen X; just Friday I was driving my son home from baseball practice when he wanted to know who was singing the song that was playing on the radio so he asked if he could borrow my phone to Shazam it. It dawned on me that he’ll never know a world where he’d have to wait endlessly in the car for the deejay to go through the playlist or possibly have to WAIT FOR IT TO COME ON AGAIN SOME OTHER TIME!

They were also more likely than millennials to stay on their phones at the dinner table

Thank you, article, for making me realize I’m not a terrible person, just typical of my generation.

I was on a work trip recently with two millennial colleagues. In addition to a few pop culture references that I thought were ubiquitous that went right over their head, I realized a big line in the sand is that all three of us were fans of Smashing Pumpkins, but I was the only one who remembered when Billy Corgan had hair.
posted by The Gooch at 11:20 AM on April 15 [11 favorites]


A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter!

I've tried entering a grocery store without repeating that line, but I don't think I've ever succeeded.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:25 AM on April 15 [8 favorites]


A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter!

Oh gosh, I remember that line still, even though where I lived milk came in bags and butter came in 1lb blocks. (Sesame Street had this fascinating additional layer of anthropology)
posted by Secret Sparrow at 11:57 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


In my head, it's always been a quart of milk. Huh. Also, as genx, I was able to attend university for $4.00 a credit hour. I worked part time, plus TA, and could afford to pay college fees, rental of part of a river house, and a sports car, with full insurance, and could use the university clinic if I got sick.

What I paid for four years of undergrad studies will not pay for a single year of my son attending a public college in state. As a genx who gave birth late in my 30s, I'm facing aging parents and a kid who needs to go to college in a few years. I'm invisible now in the tech field, because I'm over 50 and I have boobs. My retirement plan involves a handful of barbiturates, because I will never have the resources to be taken care of when I stop being able to take care of other people.

On the upside though, it's way easier to get Motherlovebone records now, so...
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:03 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


US GenX here. Born 1967.
I'm just happy when anyone mentions us these days. Even abusively, it's nice to see GenX remembered.
posted by doctornemo at 12:56 PM on April 15 [10 favorites]


I like to gauge generational placement on certain cultural milestones when someone was in grade school, so within that context... *dons Jeff Foxworthy mask*

If your parents ever took away your Dungeons & Dragons books because they were worried you would become a Satanist,

If your parents let you stay up late to watch the final episode of an 11-year-old show about a 3-year war,

If you ever get sent to the office for telling the teacher "But 'just say no thank you' is more polite",

If the some kid in your class became a minor celebrity for solving a Rubik's cube in a matter of minutes,

If you knew him as Khaddafi instead of Gaddafi and he wore epaulettes instead of robes,

If punk rock was actually frightening,

If you and your parents were terrified of nuclear war, but not enough to dig a literal bomb shelter,

you might be a Gen Xer.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:11 PM on April 15 [22 favorites]


My brother and I, both Gen-Xers, were born on opposite sides of 1970. We split our generation into "Atari" and "Nintendo."
posted by tzikeh at 2:07 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


I consider myself as someone on the leading edge of millennials at a couple years into my 30s, and one of the things I've noticed is that the prototypical millennial keeps getting younger. I think it got frozen at "college student" at some point, and as every new year of students started finding their political voice, they became the poster children for millennial.


As someone who is firmly in the millennial generation under any definition, who teaches at a university, this, please. I am very much not in the same generation as my freshmen and sophomores (and even my juniors and seniors to some extent) and I'm sure they feel the same way. (And don't get me started on when older faculty members start complaining about millennials--hello, there are technically 3 or 4 of us in this room with you right now!)
posted by damayanti at 2:44 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


How young do you think millennials are? It starts at like 1982, meaning Facebook didn't exist until after a lot of us had entered adulthood.

? Facebook went "public" (accessible to non-.edu accounts) in 2006, I think. That means that for the majority, accepting the 1982 date, it was around for college and even high school.

I was born closer to the tail end of the 80s, and I remember life before Windows, never mind the Internet or Facebook.

No, you don't, unless you are St. Alia-of-the-Knife. The first version of Windows was introduced in 1985.

The point being, Boomers like to marvel at "digital native" Millennials, but most of you came along late enough to be herded straight off into walled gardens, so, unless you had a specific interest in tech, you're only adept at the extremely constrained options the builders of the walled gardens chose to provide. It's not a question of generational skill or virtue, it's just a question of what institutions had been built before your arrival to herd you all into one place you had limited control over to be advertised to and sold more easily.
posted by praemunire at 3:17 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


UK boomer here. I can remember free school milk (tepid, vile), finally terminated by milk-snatcher Thatcher.

Thatcher only cut milk provision for 7-11s. It has already gone for over 11s when she came to power, and it stayed in place for under 7s.
posted by biffa at 3:58 PM on April 15


No, you don't, unless you are St. Alia-of-the-Knife. The first version of Windows was introduced in 1985.

Right, and we had a Cyrix 486 that ran DOS. We didn't get windows until 3.1 (and hardly at release), and nor did anyone else I knew.
posted by Dysk at 4:14 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


I won't dispute the idea that the young-people-are-naturally-adept-at-technology is something that, to the extent it was ever really true, fell off sometime in the "millennial" period, but I also point out that things like Windows and Facebook were far from universally adopted at launch, and also went through a lot of changes from their initial versions before they became the things they are today, and I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone's lived experience.
posted by ckape at 4:21 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I started college in 1992, and computer OSes were still very much in flux. My family had had a Macintosh (512 blazing k of RAM baby!) since the late 80s, but when I got to college I had friends who brought their old beater computers with them that were still running DOS (which I had no idea what to do with). In the computer lab (singular) we had Windows and also NeXT(!).

I do tech support at a university now and I'm constantly having to give my speech about Digital Natives Is A Myth. I've seen some incredibly dumb shit perpetrated by Boomers who don't know the first thing about computers (#notallboomers) who blithely assume with zero evidence that their undergraduate non-STEM-major students can "make an app, or something *hand wave*" as part of their coursework. Yo, these kids can't even make a website without Wix.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:40 PM on April 15 [11 favorites]


I'm firmly in the middle of Gen X and I had a Mac (LC) at college. Some guy who worked in the computer lab (and had one wandering eye) gave me a 5400 baud modem he wasn't using anymore so I could use the University's dialup in my dorm room.

He promptly sent me a dick pic that took 4 minutes to load.

I am pretty sure the ubiquity of unsolicited genitalia imagery could be used to divide up the generations fairly well.
posted by taterpie at 5:32 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


Somewhat related to the WaPo link, Slate's Can We Please Stop Talking About Generations as if They Are a Thing?

(I don't actually think generation talk is complete bs, I'm just too stung by the Ringer's old millenial/young millenial breakdown to openly engage with it anymore.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 5:34 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Weren't those later than Gen X but really not millenials Gen Y? I don't really hear that term any more. I think of Millenials as those born from say 1995.
posted by kitten magic at 6:05 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I tend to hear that the end birth range for millennials is 1995 or so. I think "Gen Y" is just what people called old millennials before people settled on the term millennial; I haven't heard it in a while either. The other problem is that cranky op-ed writers describe every "young" person they dislike as a millennial, whether the person in question is 35 or 15.

*tiptoes back out of thread to allow Gen Xers to resume their nostalgia for Atari or the End of History or whatever*
posted by grandiloquiet at 6:40 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I see Uptown Funk as pure Gen X nostalgia for The Time.

Also, The Time needs to do a new album.
posted by hippybear at 6:47 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


People use "millennial" in the same way they use "hipster": to describe anyone younger than them that they don't understand.
posted by liquorice at 7:09 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Am I imagining things or is that one of the things the Boomers slammed us Xers for, too?

No, and yes.

Really tired of this generational nonsense. Older people have been slamming younger people for being lazy, moody, and/or self-absorbed, while younger people have been slamming older people for being lazy, out of touch, and/or self-important, probably for millenia.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:39 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


I remember my boss telling me that in the 1970's she paid for a year of tuition plus a brand new car with the earnings from one summer of farm work.

Being a Gen-X type at the trailing end of the boomer economic, er, boom, I went to university in the mid-eighties, when tuition was cheap and well-paying jobs were plentiful. I paid my tuition off with my first paycheque of the summer, and books took up most of the second one. The rest was gravy. And in my youthful innocence, I believed this was how it would stay. For what it’s worth, I went to a university that was moderately pricey by Canadian standards. If I had been at McGill in first year, my tuition would have been $535.00.

I have plugged my first job’s pay into an inflation adjuster. At 18, I was making the adjusted equivalent of well over what our two-person household brings in now. Before I was 25, I was working for minimum wage (in an otherwise enjoyable job): this, rather than any exact year of birth, is what I feel makes me a Gen-X type.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:47 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


So the one thing that does get me started with youth bashing is the way some millenials have adopted post-truth postures.

In my day, research was work. Serious work. In 5th grade, my history teacher gave each of us a homework prompt to verify that we could go past the encyclopedia (what's that, Mr. Ocschwar? Well, we used to buy printouts of Wikipedia because it was cheaper than getting a computer so you could go online.) and reach primary sources. To get this assignment done, I had to find a book in the reference section in my village's library.

Which did not exist. The village library collection was hosted in old people's living rooms.

So first I had to look up which collection the book was in, in a hand-maintained index.
Then find out who was hosting it.
Then use a paper phone book to find his phone number.
Then called him to set up an appointment. On a rotary phone. Went to his house with a pencil and notebook.
Copied 3 pages from the book by hand while he made a cup of tea for me.
Then went home to write some homework from those 3 pages. That pointless piece of busy work is actually one of my more pleasant childhood memories.

So when young people claim it's too hard to sort truth from propaganda, and better to just live in a bubble, when most of what I did that day they can do just by reaching into their goddamn pockets. Makes me want to blow a gasket. (When my elders talk like that, I DO blow a gasket.)
posted by ocschwar at 8:01 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


We didn't get windows until 3.1 (and hardly at release), and nor did anyone else I knew.

3.1 was released in 1992, which would be right around the earliest memory formed by someone born at the end of the 80's. I get that maybe you personally weren't using it at 5 years old, but if that's your meaning then we can say that my 8 year old nephew also remembers 'life before Windows', because he only knows iPads and Macs.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:47 PM on April 15


The Six Living Generations in America

Basically:

G.I. Generation (also Greatest Generation thanks to Brokaw's book): Born 1901-1926

Silent Generation
: Born 1927-1945

Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964

Generation X: Born 1964-1980

Millennials (also Gen Y): Born 1981-2000

Generation Z, aka Boomlets, aka iGen, aka Founders (?!): Born 2000-2018
posted by tzikeh at 9:37 PM on April 15


I’d say the Gen X’ers are the only generation that agrees with what is written about them and are pretty happy about it. Boomers and Millenials are treated like shit because most of the articles written about generational flaws are written by gen X’ers.
...

Older people have been slamming younger people for being lazy, moody, and/or self-absorbed, while younger people have been slamming older people for being lazy, out of touch, and/or self-important, probably for millenia.


The criticism is there for every generation. It seems one of the things about Millennials, and this may apply to Boomers as well, is that they cared about the criticism. I can not imagine anyone when I was growing up caring in the slightest about the New York Times or any other media's opinion of our generation.

I feel like there are a lot of similarities between Millennials and Boomers.

I don't if it was just my experience, but I never got the generational identification like that. We thought the 60's generational tribalism was cheesy, but in the last few years my younger relatives have started statements with the words "Our generation..." and I want to say "Settle down Gidget".
posted by bongo_x at 9:59 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


3.1 was released in 1992, which would be right around the earliest memory formed by someone born at the end of the 80's

Mate, you're not talking sense. I was born "closer to the tail end of the 80s" in my case, and I easily have memories of the 80s. Hell, I have memories of using computers in the 80s. I was not born in 1989. And you're utterly ignoring people born toward the start is the 80s.

I get that maybe you personally weren't using it at 5 years old, but if that's your meaning then we can say that my 8 year old nephew also remembers 'life before Windows', because he only knows iPads and Macs.

No, because release and ubiquity are different. Like when you were trying to say that because windows 1.0 was released in 85 that you'd have had to be using computers before then to remember a time before windows. I'm sorry, that's bullshit. Barely anyone bought or used windows 1.0. 3.1 was the first version to start to get widespread traction, and that sure as shit wasn't as early as 1992 for most of the world.
posted by Dysk at 10:34 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Which is all irrelevant, because it certainly isn't true that none of us remember life before Facebook. We're arguing about something released in 1992. Facebook didn't even open to most people until 2006. There are a bunch of us who were adults, hell, since I'd us who were closer to thirty than twenty by the time we even heard of Facebook.
posted by Dysk at 10:37 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Like, what you're arguing is practically like saying that people of the early 19th century didn't live in a world without electric light, because the incandescent light bulb was invented in 1802.
posted by Dysk at 10:44 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


The postwar Baby Boom happened because those Boomer parents who survived World War II had very strong reasons for believing that they would have a more economically optimistic future than they had before. Hence, they had lots of babies. ... people expect that they will have a much less economically optimistic future, which leads them to cut back on having babies, and thus the birth rate falls.

Is this really true though? I think it's more likely that the parents of boomers had tons of babies because that's what humans have been doing since the beginning of time, the difference is that the babies/children/mothers started surviving at higher rates than before. I know I can look at a chart that shows the change in birth rate during the boomer years, but some of that must have been attributable to the fact that for the first time in history, childbirth and childhood got ALOT less dangerous.

I think it's also more likely for the later generations that they didn't have as many kids because you don't have to with the new economy anymore and especially since most of the survive now. Kids are not needed in mills or to perform labor to bring income for the family and now the more kids you have will increase the numbers of mouths you have to feed since they're all survivng now. If the economy suddelny starts booming like crazy, I highly doubt we're going to see that much of an uptick in the birth rate. People just don't want to have that many kids if they don't have to.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:27 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I kind of hate how people keep trying to pin down generational identity to birth years. In my mind, generational solidarity tends to boil down to (at least) two major factors:
  1. Which generation your parents belonged to.
  2. Which economic boom or bust was going on when you entered the job market for keeps
All this nonsense about being born before or after the production release of Star Wars was a big deal when I was a teenager and everyone was holding "round table discussions" about Generation X on public access television.

The people caricatured in Slacker were older than I was, but we all had Boomer parents. The difference was that I dropped out of university to join the dot-com boom, while they emerged into the early-90s recession. I have a mix of sympathies and shared experiences as a result.

And yes, I was born before the production release of Star Wars
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:31 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


The postwar Baby Boom happened because those Boomer parents who survived World War II had very strong reasons for believing that they would have a more economically optimistic future than they had before.

Plenty of European countries experienced a baby boom starting in 1946. A lot of Europe was not exactly in great shape in 1946.

(The one argument I can see for this interpretation is that Germany's baby boom didn't start until 1955, notably post-Wirtschaftswunder.)
posted by hoyland at 4:26 AM on April 16


Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964

Generation X: Born 1964-1980


So the answer for me is "both".
posted by octothorpe at 4:54 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Is this really true though? I think it's more likely that the parents of boomers had tons of babies because that's what humans have been doing since the beginning of time, the difference is that the babies/children/mothers started surviving at higher rates than before. I know I can look at a chart that shows the change in birth rate during the boomer years, but some of that must have been attributable to the fact that for the first time in history, childbirth and childhood got ALOT less dangerous.
The infant maternity rate in the US had been declining steeply for at least a hundred years before the mid-20th century, mostly because of improvements in public health: things like better sanitation and safer drinking water. Birth rates declined at the same time, which is typically what happens when infant mortality goes down. Infant mortality continued to decline after World War II, but the birth rate trend temporarily reversed. You definitely can't attribute that to changes in infant survival rate (which just doesn't work mathematically: the increase in births is much greater than what could be explained by changes in the already-pretty-low infant mortality rate), and I don't think you can explain it as a social response to better chances of survival, because historically, people have had fewer children as their children's chance of survival improved.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:00 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


The infant maternity rate in the US had been declining steeply for at least a hundred years before the mid-20th century, mostly because of improvements in public health:

One would certainly hope so.
posted by scrump at 5:15 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


I never got the generational identification like that. We thought the 60's generational tribalism was cheesy

For years I've been saying that a sure indicator that someone was Generation X was that they resent being categorized in such a shallow, normative way, and argue that generational theory is hogwash.
posted by Miko at 6:31 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


3.1 was released in 1992, which would be right around the earliest memory formed by someone born at the end of the 80's

The high school I went to didn't have windows computers in 1992, at least if they did I don't remember them. I'm pretty sure we had Apple IIs, which had a GUI interface and not DOS, but we as a school used primarily as word processors, typing tutors (still spent half the typing class year on typewriters, not computers) and to play crude versions of Jeopardy and Yatzee. I think they had a DVD-type reference library in the library, with big CD things of consolidated magazines but I don't remember what they were called. Maybe something like digital micro-fische.

UIL computer science was done with Turbo Pascal, which I've been a programmer for 20+ years and I've still never used in any other scenario.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:20 AM on April 16


I read a book about computers and coding to my five-year-old son last night, and the last page was (as many similar books also feature) a "history of computers". I had to append "But really no one I knew had one of these until at least 5 years later" to every "first" that was mentioned post-1970. It was actually really annoying because I've been trying to communicate to him how new all of this is. Like, apparently the first "smartphone" was invented in 1992? This is not a useful factoid! It's essentially meaningless.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:57 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


From far, far upthread:

The Boomers are why Husker Du, The Feelies, The MC5, The Minutemen, and The Dead Kennedys will never, ever get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

That is all.

*53 year old grumbles bitterly to himself while clicking post comment*


Huh. Being "Generation X"* is what makes me not care. First, because wasn't that, like, the whole point of Husker Du and the Minutemen and the Dead Kennedys and so on, that mainstream culture is bullshit, man? Can you really, seriously see Jello Biafra rolling up to be inducted into something called the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame"? Bob Mould might do it, but that's just because he's polite.

Like, why would we want people we admire to be part of some gross, crass cultural-industrial complex?

On that note: Millennials and downward are way less skeptical of television and major cultural productions than people my age. Ex-punks or aging alternateens or whatever in my social circle are way, way less likely to watch television or major motion pictures than the kids today, and virtually no one in my age cohort listened to radio pop, while the kids today either don't really pay a lot of attention to music or are super into pop hits.

Obviously, mainstream music and television are better and their ideological range is greater than when I was growing up - even the slightest and most trivial stuff today is smarter and more self-aware than almost everything that was around when I was in my tweens and teens, and the good stuff is very good indeed. And the presence of good, complex mainstream music/movies/writing pulls everything else up - I look back at some of the stuff that really was innovative and smart and interesting in, say, 1992 and frankly it seems kind of dumb, and not just because I'm older now. So that seems to be a net positive.

But there's a loss, too - even though everything is smarter and more ideologically diverse now than it was, it's still within the parameters of, basically, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. It's just a slicker repressive tolerance. I'm always having conversations with millennials where they are shocked, shocked that just asking doesn't actually move the needle on how their favorite media company or arts organization does business, or that while a television show is willing to change up certain aspects of representation, it's still basically oriented around the straight male gaze and dollar. And on the one hand, these are people who can read media way, way better than I can without even trying, but on the other, I feel like something is lost when you just sort of accept mainstream commercial production as the limit horizon of ideology and representation.

But then I'm accelerating toward death even as we speak, so what are you gonna do?

*Even though I kind of think generation theory is nonsense.
posted by Frowner at 8:01 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


ocschwar , I want to live in this magical village where the village elders keep the library in their living rooms! I want to be an elder there. I have books! Can I please live there?
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:22 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


we had a taste of things not sucking in the 60s and 70s,

That's just nostalgia. While my first memory is of the moon landing, in the 60s and 70s we had pollution, the population bomb, the decline of America, dying cities, race riots, Vietnam, drug epidemics, the fall of the hippies, terrorism, and of course nuclear war.

I mean, consider that the first wave of YA dystopias came out in the 70s: Z for Zachariah, Children of Morrow, House of Stairs, The Missing Persons League...and that was for kids. Adults had A Boy and His Dog, Logan's Run, Soylent Green...

Bottom line is, even in the 1960s we knew things sucked and were only going to get worse. As a Gen Xer, I'm amazed we got this far.
posted by happyroach at 8:46 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


The generation divisions don't really make sense to me. As someone who mostly grew up without internet access (until age ~12 anywhere or ~14 at home) or Facebook (until halfway through university) or any cell phone ( ~23), let alone a smart one ( ~28), I really don't identify with any of the "millenial" descriptions, while still clearly being too young for gen x. My parents are similarly ill-fitting, as tail-end boomers. So it all comes across as artificial, useless nonsense to me. Maybe it feels more accurate for those in the very middle of these made-up "generations", though I'm solidly millenial by any birthyear definition.
posted by randomnity at 8:53 AM on April 16


> I mean, consider that the first wave of YA dystopias came out in the 70s: Z for Zachariah, Children of Morrow, House of Stairs, The Missing Persons League...and that was for kids. Adults had A Boy and His Dog, Logan's Run, Soylent Green...

As well as The Sheep Look Up, which came out in 1972 (the year before I was born). I read it when I was 20 and it played a significant part in shaping my vision of what I believe the future is probably going to be like (it's also one of the most depressing books I've actually finished).
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:28 AM on April 16


If you're too young to remember the assassination of John Lennon, you aren't Generation X

Hey look I'm SORRY if I was too busy BEING BORN

(Yes it's true I was in fact born on December 8, 1980 and I have no idea what generation I am but I self-identify as a millennial because I hate the movie Reality Bites)
posted by Automocar at 9:51 AM on April 16


Gen X, we saw Slint and Nirvana live. That's all you need to know.

hmm...bragging about seeing some suffocatingly ubiquitous band that doesn't tour anymore because the lead singer is dead...[rips off mask] GUYS I FOUND THE BOOMER
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:10 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


We still think of it as EPCOT Center.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:23 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


I hate the movie Reality Bites
As do all real Gen-Xers
posted by fullerine at 10:35 AM on April 16 [7 favorites]


If you're too young to remember the assassination of John Lennon, you aren't Generation X

I do not remember this at all because I was far, far too small to be aware of media stuff. And yet Douglas Coupland was a big deal when I was in college!


(Yes it's true I was in fact born on December 8, 1980 and I have no idea what generation I am but I self-identify as a millennial because I hate the movie Reality Bites)


What makes you a millennial is not that you hate Reality Bites, it's your failure to realize that all those "grunge" movies were a total joke when they came out.

"Grunge" itself was a bit of a joke...I mean, not that people didn't, like, listen to the bands, but if someone were like, "what kind of music do you listen to" or "from whence do you derive your fashion stylings", no one would talk about it being "grunge". That was a top-down term. The marketing of music and pop culture changed radically in the nineties - you could see the change as it was happening if you were smart and/or read the Baffler - and that's how we got to the happy synergy between artists and corporations that brings us, like, umpteen gazillion collaborative fashion collections and lavishly funded music festivals. It was not ever thus.

Talking to millennials (or even younger folks) about their understanding of the eighties and nineties makes me very, very uneasy about my understanding of the sixties and seventies, because I notice that even where the content is remembered, the emphasis is lost, and I assume that my understanding of the recent past works pretty much the same way.

On the other hand, I had a fantastic time a couple of years ago giving a talk about Cold War popular culture - it was extremely fun to astonish young people with weird facts about the eighties.
posted by Frowner at 10:50 AM on April 16 [7 favorites]


I guess a take-away from the whole nineties thing is skepticism about what history views as movies that "reflect the experience of a generation". Reality Bites and Singles were viewed - at least by everyone I knew - as ham-handed marketing attempts, just sort of weird in their fetishization of knit hats and floral dresses and so on. They were not viewed as movies that reflected the experience of people who were, let's say, between eighteen and thirty when the movies came out.

Even movies that people actually liked, like Clerks or Dazed and Confused, were stories about people, not stories "about a generation". They might capture certain kinds of experience, but not experiences that were universal to a generation.

The only one I thought at all realistic was Slacker, but that was only realistic for a certain kind of bohemia. (Now, sadly, mostly vanished due to gentrification and rising rents.)
posted by Frowner at 11:04 AM on April 16 [7 favorites]


OK, so Frowner's just going to say all the things I deleted because I couldn't put them into words properly.
posted by bongo_x at 11:07 AM on April 16


Tech for Gen-Xers:
Tech was awesome. Really. Because none of it talked, there were no standards. You could fight over OS/2 or DOS... The weird rich kid had the Mac... even though your school likely had an Apple IIgs when you were in middle school.
You knew folks in digital production using the Video Toaster - which if you knew anything about history was really what was left of the Commodore Amiga and that's why it disappeared. Your one friend that did have an amiga would tell you relentlessly why their color was superior and how they had millions of colors whereas the best VGA at the time only had 256 color - and don't ever get that friend started on EGA and CGA... Don't even get me started on the Commodore 64 or 128 or the Apple 2e of the 80s, lest we get reminded of that asshole you knew who had a Trash-80 and proudly referred to it as such.

None of those systems talked to each other so if you did stuff at school, you had a different disk for every different computer system you'd face. So know your fucking formats - some of the millenials have likely seen a 3 1/2 inch disk before, though I don't know how many know that Windows 3.1 came on 24 separate floppies and you'd better know whether or not you were using an upgrade version from Windows 3.0 and how to fool the computer into installing it properly if you were. Also, you generally didn't buy the first version of anything and made due with what you had because there were no updates for normal people. Updates required a dial up modem, and likely downloading overnight a huge patch and having to be there because it probably took overnight if it didn't take up a day or so - and that meant your phone was off the hook the whole time. So... ahem... unless you had convinced your parents to buy you a second line and had convinced the phone company that no, you did not want call waiting on that second line (because inbound call waiting was basically something that hung up your modem) - you sure as shit weren't getting a patch. Also, keep in mind... you either downloaded the whole thing at once, or it *FAILED* and you started from scratch... There was no 'resume download' just a bunch of opportunity to cause problems in your data.

Basic didn't have an environment when you started so when microsoft packaged that along with that damn gorilla game - you started your old school tech superiority complex. Pascal was your first introduction to something that looked like C and transferrable languages... and vector graphics - which was a big change from sprites of the basic days. (Also, if anyone is feeling masochistic - while trying to remember what was the name of the thing after sprites that I did, I ran into this article on implementing a ray tracer in pascal - which is bananas - but hey - more power to that guy.)

And just before telnet all you had were fucking BBSes... and like your own private 4chan, dig far enough through phone numbers of BBSes, and you'll find your own particular pile of weirdness and wtf... That is important because, the unfiltered nature led to the rise of closed door BBSes like AOL, which had to compete with BBSes AND the protoplasm that was telnet and the internet. So when Mosaic and Mozilla came out - understand the roots and foundations of Facebook are really the Angelfire pages of yester-year... Except, nobody was wasting their life away showing their dream vacation spots and how cool their stuff was at the early stages because it took too much time to learn all the shit you needed to know in order to put something up so only the truly committed computer geeks were online building stuff. Hence, why none of you will really ever understand the impact of Llamasoft.

Now lets get off computers... having ignored 40 pound laptops.

So, having some perspective on where things were and what problems existed - guess what... GenX really pushed for comparability and standards, because we grew up having to be tolerant of a lot of bullshit by the crazy nature of computers. And that does make for XKCD standards humor, and for those who went into the industry, Gen-Xers are 'tech native' not 'digital native' - but not all of us - and most of us only within our domains.

Now with that said, we're not brilliant tech-absorbing gurus... as I said, we all didn't do this, but those of us who have this knowledge - can use it within our domain. I am just as much of a fuddy duddy with certain things the same way my boomer parents didn't seem to understand how to set the VCR clock and stop it from blinking 12:00, but holy shit - on my known techs, I can rip it apart, build it, rethink it, and implement it. If what we know is transferable, we can learn something new and re-apply our knowledge. Our background is in tech creativity or bootstrapping... which means on some things we're totally deep, and on others... yeah we're as clueless as boomers.

Digital Natives in my mind, may be excellent at using what they've got... but... there's a spoon-fed nature that sometimes hides the creativity to bootstrap.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:20 AM on April 16 [12 favorites]


"Grunge" itself was a bit of a joke

Especially to Megan Jasper.

if you were smart and/or read the Baffler

See also Douglas Rushkoff, and Adbusters (all three building on the work of Neal Postman, who was building on the work of Marshall McLuhan, etc., etc.).
posted by box at 11:22 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Especially to Megan Jasper.

FTA:
Out of the Los Angeles post-punk scene came the Red Hot Chili Peppers
This is what we are left with? Dang it.

TOM-TOM CLUB: Uncool outsiders
Tom Tom Club was awesome! Come on Jasper! You can't use them as a fake slur!
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:03 PM on April 16


Mate, you can’t even keep track of who you’re replying to, maybe you should be less strident in your vociferous defense of your surprising definition of “before Windows” meaning “before my social group was buried in Windows PCs” instead of “before Windows was created”, a far more useful definition when it’s used without context - perhaps you’re talking about your experience as a remote Amazon tribe member last week! (Are they Gen X as well?) Maybe we can move on to what “tail end of the 80s” means and whether you are saying that it extends to include people born at the beginning of the 80s, so you were actually 10 years old in 1992 and had plenty of memories before that, or if you’re saying that most people’s earliest memories are from much earlier than the age of 5 so everyone born before 1989 remembers using computers before 1992?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:21 PM on April 16


ocschwar , I want to live in this magical village where the village elders keep the library in their living rooms! I want to be an elder there. I have books! Can I please live there?

It's been engulfed into Tel Aviv's suburbia. Back then it was comprised of Jews trying to farm and not doing too well at it. The village hall had no space for the library, but Jews gotta Jew, so the collection was put in people's living rooms.
posted by ocschwar at 2:28 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


All I'm saying is that effectively everyone roughly my age I speak to about it - and my circles are not especially techy - whether it's in Denmark, Britain, or Hong Kong, has memories of using DOS, of computers that didn't have Windows. That is a world away from the description you put forward of us having been raised in walled gardens and Facebook. And I'm not exactly on the leading edge of millennial, either.
posted by Dysk at 5:04 PM on April 16


"...it finally occurred to me that I could just Google the writer of that episode and email her to ask. So I did, and she answered! A question that had been plaguing me for 30 years was answered within 30 minutes."

So what was the answer?
posted by belladonna at 7:06 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


[A few deleted. Please take the extended one on one argument about when people mostly started using Windows vs when Windows came out to email or something.]
posted by taz (staff) at 4:04 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


some of the millenials have likely seen a 3 1/2 inch disk before

Excuse your mouth I still have (likely unreadable) 5 1/4" disks containing stories I wrote as a kid somewhere in my parents' house, and I was born in 84.

To give this some semblance of a point I think it's easy to conflate when tech advances happened and when they filtered down to people like my non-early-adopter parents, who picked up an IBM XT at a surplus sale when I was in kindergarten...
posted by en forme de poire at 5:59 PM on April 19


The Windows 3.1 argument vs DOS misses the point entirely. Windows 3.1 is not an operating system. It is a GUI shell that runs on top of the DOS operating system. If you had a PC-compatible computer before 1995, you had a DOS computer. You have to start up Win 3.1 from the DOS command line.

I still have a couple of my old DOS 6.22 computers with Win 3.1 on them from the early 90's set up and running at home. Win 3.1 is pretty useless for anything except office-related crap. Sure, there were Win 3.1 versions of games, but they usually really sucked and the DOS version was better. So unless you were word processing or using spreadsheets or whatever, you used DOS and DOS games and programs until Win 95 came out and tried to be the operating system of the computer. Even then it was still a GUI shell running on top of DOS, as was Win 98, but it wasn't until Win 95 really became widely adopted that people started using "Windows computers" as opposed to "DOS computers".
posted by fimbulvetr at 2:06 PM on April 20 [3 favorites]


Norton Commander's last release was not quite 20 years ago.
It is newer than "Music Has The Right To Children" and "Mezzanine".
posted by bongo_x at 4:05 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


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