The problems millennials have created have been a point of conversation more than once around the Saturday coffee table (a time-honored Leone tradition). My two oldest siblings are staunch believers that millennials ruin just about everything (though, they add, it’s not always their fault). When I point out they are millennials—Pew Research lists millennials as those born between 1981–1996—they get this look in their eyes like it’s semantics and respond, “But I’m not really a millennial.”
The Difference Between Millennials and Generation X
I understand their contention—they don’t want to be grouped together with the generation dubbed “the me me me generation” by Time magazine in 2013. And really, who wants to be told they’re selfish, lazy, entitled, and all the other not-so-flattering descriptors of millennials?
Meanwhile, Generation X (those with birthdays between 1965–1980), known as “America’s neglected middle child,” are “savvy, skeptical and self-reliant; they’re not into preening or pampering, and they just might not give much of a hoot what others think of them.” Yeah, I’d rather be classified as Gen X, too. Too bad I can’t be… because I’m a millennial… because I was born between 1981–1996… just like all my siblings… who are also millennials… whether they like it or not.
However, as it turns out, they may have a point.
What Makes a Microgeneration
According to USA Today, there’s a microgeneration that’s weaseled its way between Gen X and millennials, creatively coined “Xennials” by sociology professor Dan Woodman (who is also a Xennial). By most estimates, Xennials are grouped as those born somewhere between 1977–1983. It might feel like a bit of a cop-out for those who simply don’t want to be millennials and are just a smidge too young to relate to Gen X, but there is some validity to recognizing a microgeneration.
Here’s the justification: the world has changed too much in the past 25 years. Technology, world conflicts, the economic landscape, and the speed of communication had evolved so significantly that it had a significant impact on how kids grew up, how adolescents entered adulthood, and what that meant for the culture they were raised in.
Think of how the dawn of the internet and cell phones influenced everyday life (going even deeper, you can think of the change from dial-up to high speed or clunky car phones to smart phones), and how events like Columbine, 9/11, and the economic crash trickled (sometimes deluged) into how we perceive the world and inform our views.
As any parent will tell you, kids grow up so fast. Just five years can have a huge impact on the maturity of a child and how they cope with the world around them, as well as how readily they can adapt to technology and other communication trends. Combine those two factors of age and culture, and you get a small age cluster who see the world very differently than others.
What Makes a Xennial a Xennial?
While the exact dates are debated, being a Xennial seems to be more about what you identify with than what year you were born. Overall, Xennials are stamped with the distinction of growing up pre-social media and internet, but having the benefit of both of these technological advances in early adulthood. Their early childhoods were also pre-Columbine and 9/11, though they experienced both tragedies as high schoolers or young adults, making these events much more influential to them than they are to millennials, who were too young to comprehend the magnitude of these events.
Here are a few life experiences typical of Xennials, according to The Guardian:
- Memorized landline phone numbers;
- Know floppy disks as actually being floppy disks;
- Used a dial-up modem in high school and/or college;
- Used the Ask Jeeves search engine;
- Made mix tapes on cassettes;
- Had [or still have] a Hotmail account;
- Have a high tolerance for reply-all email chains.
Congratulations to my siblings, who for the first time maybe ever, possibly have a point when it comes to calling themselves “not really millennials.” You were somewhat not wrong, and I was not unobjectively right. For more information about what makes a Xennial and what makes a millennial, subscribe to SpeakingDIRECT or contact me today.
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