Please Stop the Generational Discourse
By Zach B.
Think pieces about generational differences account for 5% of my regular rage and discontent. I think we're all familiar with the ridiculous articles about how millennials ruin everything, and with the newly-coined Gen Z, I don't think things are getting any better. For as popular of a topic as generational differences is, the things people have to say are exhaustingly banal. As I continue to see an increase in these think pieces, it’s time to ask myself why they’re so prevalent.
We can all agree that understanding the changes of society is helpful, but helpful to who? A lot of the chatter surrounding the generational gap tends to be very divisive, onIy feeding the belief that people of different generations can’t see eye to eye and work to move forward together. I see toxic arrogance on both ends, and as people cling harder to the identities placed on them according to when they were born, the more I see them playing into this game that was decided by other people.
Everyone seems to just pick out the aspects of their generation’s stereotype that cater to how they want to see themselves. Gen X loves to embrace the fact that they’re deemed to be hard working and responsible while completely rejecting the part that says they’re socially unconscious and racist. Millennials and Gen Z love to embrace the fact that they’re socially progressive and “revolutionary” but won’t acknowledge the work done by those before them or their tendency to practice their politics in a vacuum. These things aren’t true about every person in each generation, and a big reason why this occupies my thought process is because of the fact that these descriptions aren’t relatable at all. A lot of these ideas about who we are according to our generation are very arbitrary and constricting, and I've never personally felt understood by the terms "millennial" or "Gen Z."
There are definite advantages to observing trends in older and younger generations of society, but I also believe that it's contributed greatly to creating caricatures of members of every generation, and a lot of the information that's stated about these groups tend to only be helpful to marketers, advertisers, and capitalist BS (ie. "Gen Z is 20% more likely to buy clothes from Instagram"). I also think these terms are painfully US-centric and might not be giving us the best global picture of what's happening. In sum, a lot of what’s being reported are things that I simply don’t care about.
I care about the increasing rates of depression and anxiety in youth, I care about war veterans who don’t have access to mental health services, and I care about the sky-rocketing prices in education. I don’t care about which bastion of capitalism Gen Z prefers. I don’t care about the fact that a generation may prefer one social media platform over another.
Additionally, a lot of people seem to take these ideas and bring them to their interactions with their parents, grandparents, or whoever else. I think the same can be said for Baby Boomers and Gen X. It feels as though a lot of people are slipping into these roles based on when they were born that other people carved out for them. But we need to be skeptical about who this information is actually being generated for and who it best serves (hint: I don’t really think it’s us). When we find a way to use this information that’s helpful to the common good of the people, then maybe I’ll start paying attention. Until then, I don’t think I can stand to talk about generational gaps any longer.