Baby Boomers. Millenials. Generation Z. Although some records exist nearly as far back as America’s beginnings of people naming the generations, these three generations are likely the most well-known today, although where one ends and the next begins is controversial.
They come with their own stereotypes: the Baby Boomers don’t understand technology, the Millenials—people aged 18-34, according to a Forbes article from 2013—are entitled know-it-alls who spend more time on social media than on work, and Generation Z, people aged 17 and younger, is the “9/11” generation.
In a family, the parents would be considered the Baby Boomers. Their adult children are the Millenials, and their younger siblings are Generation Z. Does the year a person was born play a role in how their personality is shaped?
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However, can people’s personalities and tendencies really be grouped into their birth years, or are these stereotypes caused more by the changing external circumstances than by the generations of people themselves?
According to Forbes, the Millenials are optimistic, but the people of Generation Z are realistic. The Millenials grew up in a world where they could walk to the gate to watch their grandparents’ planes land when they came to visit; Generation Z never knew a world without the fear of terrorism, without strict security and television shows where detectives chase down bomb threats and save the city, or the world, in the nick of time.
The Millenials are entering the job market, or have been working in it for years, and are trying to find their place among the Baby Boomers who are known as the mature professionals. Generation Z is still in grade school, wondering when the next school shooting will take place and if they will be the victims.
Go to WhenParentsText.com, and a person will find a whole website dedicated to making fun of parents’ lack of ability with texting and other technology. That’s the stereotype of the Baby Boomers. But go to any college campus, and the Millenials who make up most of the student body will likely be walking around with their noses buried in their phones. This is because the Millenials were in middle school—or older—for the Myspace era; they were in their teens when Facebook was born; they witnessed first-hand the rise to popularity of Instagram and Pinterest.
The Millenials were the first generation to carry cell phones to school, back when their parents—the Baby Boomers—had chunky car phones, back when the Motorola Razr was the coolest piece of technology to grace planet earth, back before the iPhone was even an Apple in Steve Jobs’ eye.
For Generation Z, on the other hand, these inventions are just as much a part of life as electricity and automobiles, because the members of it were not yet born or were still young children when this technology debuted. It is “old news” to them.
Generation Z is growing up in a world of apocalyptic movies and crime shows, and the days of “Rugrats” and “Catdog” are just memories in the minds of the Millenials, and just stories to Generation Z.
Because the youngest Millenials and the oldest of Generation Z grew up during the same time of social change, they have some of the same experiences; however, some general differences have been noted. An article on Livescience.com describes the Millennials as more “open-minded” than their Baby-Boom parents and all generations before them. They tend to be more supportive of equal rights, more liberal, and more willing to accept new ideas. While the Millenials have the reputation for moving back home with parents or starting work late, Forbes predicts—since Generation Z is still made up of minors and concrete figures do not exist—that Generation Z will watch its parents, the Baby Boomers, lose their jobs, and its older siblings, the Millenials, move home, and its members will try to stay out of debt.
Although the generations tend to fit into some generalizations like these, people are individuals. Just because someone is born in 1960 does not mean they will be unable to use an iPhone, or a person born in 1993 will be more carefree than her sibling who grew up in the post-9/11 world.
Many of the similarities between people born in the same “generation” are caused not by their birthdays, but rather by the external conditions of the world when they are children, when they are teenagers, when they are young adults, and how those experiences impact their development. Sharing experiences at the same stage of maturity tends to create a bond and often a similar general outlook on the world, and this is what is really meant by “generation.”
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