What about Generation X?


Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, seen here at a 1992 show, was called the “voice of Generation X.” (Courtesy/Wikipedia)

Millennials. Now before you turn the page or click the back button, this is not a vain piece written by a college liberal or a self-hate piece written by a college conservative. There are misconceptions about the generations, as well as an important question: What about Generation X?

To start, what is a generation? Dictionary.com defines a generation as “a group of individuals, most of whom are the same approximate age, having similar ideas, problems, attitudes, etc.”  These ideas and attitudes are often dependent on key world events that occurred during adolescence, such as World War II, Vietnam, Cold War or 9/11. Of course, because no two generations grew up in the same conditions, there are differences when it comes to worldly views.

Generational strife, one might call it, this time occurring between Baby Boomers and Millennials has been getting attention lately. Millennials are often portrayed as lazy, full of themselves and spoiled, among other things. Millennials respond by calling themselves innovators and individualistic, claiming Boomers are stiff and unable to accept change.

It’s almost shocking, really, that the generation known for hippies and who brought us LSD and Woodstock, progressive views and social change, who made protesting mainstream now criticize Millennials for acting in a similar way. I guess technology is to blame.

However, talking about Boomers versus Millennials without mentioning the other two generations would be like only reading half of a good book. Biologists like to define generations in 30-year blocks, but social scientists define it differently. While there are no set guidelines of when a generation begins or ends, they are instead defined by consensus and historically have been separated into 15 to 20 year blocks.

The most widely accepted standard is as follows: anyone born between 1946 and 1964 is considered a Baby Boomer, 1965 to 1979 is Gen X, 1980 to 1995 is Gen Y (Millennial), 1996 to 2010 is Gen Z (post 2010 is loosely defined as Gen Alpha). Some would, and probably will, argue that the Millennial cut off is 2000 and that Gen Z doesn’t start until 2001, but this is purely semantic.

The coined “neglected middle child” by Pew Research Center, Gen X is stuck between the once-largest generation in American history, the Boomers, and the generation who is even larger, the Millennials. Not quite as traditional as the prior generation and nor as progressive as the following, Gen X is left largely ignored.

The generation made up of current 38 to 52-year-olds, for better or worse, is not included in the Boomer versus Millennial argument. The once free-spirited generation, has been outdone by the generations surrounding it.

Is this about to change? In an interview with BBC’s Lindsay Baker, author Tiffanie Darke thinks so. She says Gen Xers will soon be on a mission to provide a ‘bridge’ between Millennials and Boomers. She argues that every generation, as they move from anti-establishment to being a part of it, must fill this roll.

But will the generation known best for being individualistic and enjoying grunge music fill the shoes of the imposing Boomers? I don’t think so. As any middle child can attest, the oldest and youngest get the most attention and this is no different. The day Boomers finally give up governmental control, Millennials will be there to fill in the gap.

We as a country should not be too worried about this eventuality. Through the insults being thrown around comes the realization that almost every generation has been criticized by the priors.

Boomers were criticized for being hippies, being loose with their money and being anti-war by their largely veteran parents. Gen X was too fun-loving and optimistic. Millennials are discounted for being too soft, easily offended and lacking people skills.

We should not take these criticisms too seriously for eventually we will all become the generation who criticizes the younger due to different viewpoints and wisdom that comes with age. In time, we will all become the ones sitting in a rocking chair telling stories of how, back in our day, we used to walk through a foot of snow to get to school, knowing full well that school was most likely canceled.

David Csordas is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at david.csordas@uconn.edu.

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