Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Meanwhile, on the Internet
Tribune Reporters
'Meanwhile' is a collaborative blog about all the crazy stuff on the Internet. Here, reporters from various Tribune desks tell you what you (almost) need to know about topics ranging from technology to YouTube sensations. Contributors: Michael McFall, Dave Newlin, Matt Piper, Brennan Smith, Erin Alberty. Edited by Sheena McFarland.

Subscribe (RSS)




John Fiorenzo, center, catches a brief nap during the address to the graduates at his Boston College Commencement ceremony while a classmate yawns behind him at Alumni Stadium on the university's campus in Boston, Monday, May 21, 2012. Fellow graduates Patrick Dingham, left, and Brandan Kirby, right, watch the stadium's score board jumbotron. All of the men received their Bachelors of Science degrees from the university's Carrol School of Management. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
We’re defining our generations in a way that makes no sense

Today’s young adults go by a few different names. Collectively, those of us in our 20s and early 30s are typically known as "Generation Y" or the "Millenials." But these designations are clunky and, more importantly, completely gloss over some of the most generation-defining developments in recent history.

They’re inaccurate, in other words, and we should change them.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Earlier this week, several major news outlets were arguing over who exactly falls into this current generation of young adults. The New York Times ran a piece about "Millenials," but cited examples of people in their late 30s. Amanda Hess at Slate didn’t buy that, though, and wrote that those people weren’t Millenials at all. Then, finally, Philip Bump of The Wire provided a useful chart explaining that the current generation of young adults began either in the late 70s or early 80s and continued until 2000. Or maybe a bit later.

Except that’s not really right at all. My own family offers a useful illustration: I was born in 1982 and I have a sister who was born in 1995. We’re both adults now, and by definition we’re both Millenials.

Our experiences growing up and reaching adulthood, however, are very different. When I was a teenager, I called my friends on my family’s shared land line. I got my driver licence when I was 16. I remember watching music videos on MTV (though even in my adolescence music videos were becoming rare). Even more importantly, I was already an adult when Facebook, YouTube and all the staples of the modern Internet came along. I didn’t get an email address until I went to college. I was in my 20s before I got a cellphone.

Yes, there were people who adopted these technologies sooner than me, but I remember a time when they weren’t ubiquitous and in some cases didn’t even exist. I was a grown up for some of that time.

That’s not true for my now 19-year-old sister. In her case, her high school was filled with cell phones. Driving was significantly less important, possibly because of all those phones. "Social media" has basically always been around — the only question was when you’re parents would let you use it. Everyone my sister’s age watched the Disney Channel, which was no longer on premium cable.

I could go on and on, but the picture should be clear: despite an age gap that is not technically huge, at least in the grand scheme, my sister is effectively a digital native. I, on the other hand, am a naturalized citizen of this new world. I got a taste of pre-digital life.

Every generation experiences change and life for people at either end is always different. But my point is that as much as it pains me to say it, my early life experience was more similar to that of a Gen-Xer than a late Millenial. And that’s probably true of everyone born in most of the 1980s — or about half of the so-called Millenials.

In essence, then, I’m arguing that the advent and maturation of things like the Internet and personal computing represent a massive shift in the way people live. In that way, these changes are like World War II, redefining how we divide up our generations. The explosion of technology is a new generational starting point.

The problem, I think, is that we’re using "the millennium" as a anchor point, assuming that the year 2000 was a generation-defining moment. Truth is, it wasn’t. Technological advancement didn’t happen on the arbitrary schedule set by the Gregorian calendar, nor did the social changes wrought by that advancement.

Ultimately, people like my sister who were born in the 1990s may have experienced a few years of infancy without Facebook or YouTube, but in all practical ways, they’re more like my post-Millenial brother — who turns 12 this year — than they are like me. That makes me feel really old. I don’t particularly like it. But in the end — and given the way our culture has evolved — it’s probably time to reconsider the divisions between generations.

— Jim Dalrymple II

Twitter: @jimmycdii



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
 
Jobs
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.