By Anitra Cottledge
I’m fascinated by conversations about generations, and how generational differences shake up and enrich the classroom, the community, the workplace and even families. In my office, we have four generations represented: Baby Boomer, Generation X, Generation Y (aka Millennials) and Generation Z. We incorporate a training about communication across generations as part of our yearly staff orientation (although I must say, I haven’t done nearly enough research into Gen Z).
I don’t think the “generations” frame is perfect, by any means. For instance, what do these generational experiences look like when viewed through lenses of race and socioeconomic background? But it can be a useful discussion starter and an entry point to understanding of how some events and moments that collectively shape large groups of people.
Here’s the thing: I am the only member of Generation X in my office. And I notice that, in some of the writing I read, Generation X is totally omitted: “Generational divides in the workplace are more evident than ever as Gen Y and baby boomers find themselves working together in a variety of new arrangements.” Hello? What happened to Generation X? Contrary to the label “slacker,” we do actually exist in the workplace.
A few months ago, a Gizmodo piece entitled, “Generation X Is Sick of Your B.S.” (NSFW) made its way to my inbox, and I totally cracked up: “This is a message from Internet, the generation that became the voice that set the tone for everything you love about the Net. And it’s pissed.” I immediately sent this to all of my Generation X friends and colleagues, and I think, for a second, there was a virtual head-nod going on en masse across the country.
I know it’s become a sort of massive inside joke to pick on Millennials in a very “these kids today” kind of way or to set up a competition between Gen X vs. Gen Y, but I’m not interested in that. The only part I want to address is the the notion that somehow being technologically savvy originated with Gen Y and beyond. Yes, I saw The Social Network, and make use of Facebook on a daily basis, but there’s a whole lot of Gen X’ers whose inventions and technology companies made things like Facebook a possibility in the first place. A few examples: Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Blogger, etc.
In the end, each generation has its strengths, and this was my opportunity to give a little love to my own beloved Gen X, and our contribution to the world of technology.
A few resources about Generation X:
- Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland – the book that started it all.
- “Study says Generation X is balanced and happy” – article based on a study that debunks some of the previously-held myths about Gen X.
- Lastly, a quick video: