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Srta. Zabzie

Generations - Not a Thing

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So, it turns out, as I have always suspected generations are not a thing.  Well, they are a thing, but they are a thing made up to sell you services and stuff that you probably don't need.  There are good people and bad people of every age and lumping people together in 20 year increments makes legitimately no sense unless you are trying to sell pale pink handbags and luggage. So, I'm proud to be of no generation in particular, and get of my damn lawn.  What say you? 

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I’ve always agreed.  

There are demographic effects to be sure, e.g. the relative size of the baby boom generation, that have big societal effects.  And there are always predictable trivial inter-generational tensions from nostalgia and short memories: “music now is just noise, not like the great music back in my day”, “kids today have it too easy”.  And people are undoubtedly influenced by their environment, e.g. growing up before and after the personal computer, internet and smart phone. 

But I hate the lazy mass characterizations by generation, especially of Millennials as needy, insecure snowflakes.  I work with and manage lots of Millennial colleagues.  There’s the same individual variation, the same youthful impatience and ambition, the same idealism and disregard for fossilized systems, and the same immaturity that I can recall.  It’s just young people being young.  Most of the griping about them is just older people complaining about kids having it too easy.   For too long it was fashionable, not just acceptable, for business leaders to talk about needing to adapt to Millennial workforces like they’re aliens.  They just want what anyone wants: meaningful work for fair pay plus an opportunity to develop. 

 

I think inter-generational tension and competition is a really big issue now as older people live so much longer and try to remain “young”. The extended childhood is nothing compared to the extended middle age.  But it tends to get little play time because Gen X and Baby Boom don’t want to hear that they’re blocking the upcoming generations.  Older generations like the Baby Boom and Gen X are going to work longer and keep power and influence and high pay for much longer than Millennials would like.  The rising cost of home ownership and student debt have become huge transfer of wealth and social power from young to old in the past decade or two because of public policy.  Retirement savings are much, much better for Baby Boomers than the generations following them, thanks to pension plans closing to new entrants and 30 years of strong asset price growth for savings as interest rates fell from 15% to zero (a tailwind that now becomes a headwind for Gen X and younger).  

Culturally you can see tension between nth wave feminists, shifting definitions of masculinity, the ongoing drift away from organized religion, the reduction in trust/commitment in social & political institutions — all continuing the post-modern wave, but also symptoms of rejecting jaded structures of social power over young people. 

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Heh, I got in an argument with some elder millenials the other day that middle age starts in the mid thirties to mid fifties, therefore millenials are entering middle age.

They were horrified and kept insisting middle age doesn’t start until 45, and I replied that where I grew up, people start becoming grandparents at 45, and grandparent hood is de facto older that middle age. :-p

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Posted (edited)

+1 @ OP

I hate on Facebook when they have those memes that say "share if you remember this" or "share if you had one of these in your home" (pretty much any share if thing).  The one I saw the other day was a picture of a freaking vegetable peeler.  Like a normal kitchen utensils.  

I guess baby boomer, gen x, millennials, etc are useful designations for age brackets (where were you when...?), and maybe at one point for common culture, but I see that becoming less of a thing.  Especially for recorded film, music, and literature being so easily available,  a lot of generational markers aren't fixed kn time or place anymore.  My fifteen year old sister is more familiar with Led Zepplin than her 56 year old mom is.

 

Edited by larrytheimp
PS what's the range for millennials? I was born in 83. WTF am I?

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People who are 82-83 tend to be angst filled about generational labels, so they invented a lame special label for themselves “ex-ennial”

I’d say 83 is millenial and 82 is gen x but ymmv. People on the cusp years of 82-83 can probably just try to pick one or they other they want to identify with 

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17 minutes ago, larrytheimp said:

+1 @ OP

I hate on Facebook when they have those memes that say "share if you remember this" or "share if you had one of these in your home" (pretty much any share if thing).  The one I saw the other day was a picture of a freaking vegetable peeler.  Like a normal kitchen utensils.  

I guess baby boomer, gen x, millennials, etc are useful designations for age brackets (where were you when...?), and maybe at one point for common culture, but I see that becoming less of a thing.  Especially for recorded film, music, and literature being so easily available,  a lot of generational markers aren't fixed kn time or place anymore.  My fifteen year old sister is more familiar with Led Zepplin than her 56 year old mom is.

 

I am a 1977. I probably have more in common with you from a "cohort" perspective than I do with my sister born in 1966, though apparently my sister and I are part of the same generation.....shows you 

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I thought millennial started at 81.

Nothing's better proof that something's bullshit than people being unable to define it.

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The generational labels are way too large anyway.  A 20-ish yr span?  How am I in the same group as someone who was an infant when I was a junior in college?  I barely feel a part of my sister's age group who is 6 years younger than me. 

My age group are people who are currently in the range of, say, 30-37.  There'll be some relate-able things with folks in their later 20's and with some folks in their early 40's too, but people currently in that 30-37 range are the ones with the same or very similar cultural touchstones as myself.

I do sometimes enjoy generational warfare, though, particularly when it comes to prodding boomers on political forums.  

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, lokisnow said:

Heh, I got in an argument with some elder millenials the other day that middle age starts in the mid thirties to mid fifties, therefore millenials are entering middle age.

They were horrified and kept insisting middle age doesn’t start until 45, and I replied that where I grew up, people start becoming grandparents at 45, and grandparent hood is de facto older that middle age. :-p

Wait...so...all these people you were talking with think they're gonna live to be 100+?!

I think no matter how you slice it, middle age starts before 45.  The current average lifespan in the US is right at about 80 years (yes, a little more for women, a little less for men).  It doesn't really work to simply divide that 80 years into three equal parts - things need to be skewed quite a bit toward the younger ages.  So, I think something like 0-35 for "young", 36-60 for "middle aged", and 61-80 for "elderly" (if we're going with just three age groups) smells about right.  

 

Edited by Prince of the North

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1 hour ago, larrytheimp said:

 

I hate on Facebook when they have those memes that say "share if you remember this" or "share if you had one of these in your home" (pretty much any share if thing).  The one I saw the other day was a picture of a freaking vegetable peeler.  Like a normal kitchen utensils.  

 

Word, I hate those things.

1 hour ago, TrueMetis said:

I thought millennial started at 81.

Nothing's better proof that something's bullshit than people being unable to define it.

It officially starts in 1980, but don't tell people born before 1985 that. As MZ said, they have more in common with someone born in the late 70's than they do with someone born in the 90's. 

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Posted (edited)

While there has probably been written a lot of nonsense about these "generations" and the criticism that most of these are not feasible sociologicaI explanations seems justified I think the article does some strawmanning and that some claims of pop sociology can easily be rejected doesn't show that there are no important generational differences. Obviously there are no sharp borders and definitions. There are factors very different for someone born around 1945 than for someone born around 1970 and many of them are generational. But obviously one cannot simply draw a line in 1961 and put the 1960 person firmly on the 1945 side and so on. And there can always be individual differences overruling those from the cohort/generation.

For instance, in Europe one crucial generation defining event is WW II. Obviously having been in born in the hard times immediately afterwards (and then realizing that daddy and many of his friends were basically Nazis) are very different from having only movies or very dim stories from a (great)grandparent about the war and the post-war era. Very few people would deny that these are not mainly differences about the popular culture of one's teenage years but the are connected to a host of things, some of which are hard to isolate and quantify. And of course there are lots of confounders and other social factors might overrule some of the generational factors but that does not mean the latter are not there or unimportant. Other fairly big differences would be the coming of age before/after the pill, before/after AIDS, before/after the end of the cold war, before/after widespread personal computers, the internet, cell phones. These do not always nicely group along the popular generational lines although some do. That the boomers spent their youth and young adulthood precisely after the coming of the pill and before AIDS is probably relevant.

Of course, it is nonsense to expect a sharp delineation among two persons born in 1981 and 1983 respecively. But there are large differences between me (born in the early 70s) and my mother (born immediately after WW II) and also pretty clear ones between myself and my sister (12 years younger, born in the mid-1980s) although she is not even typical because her parents were about 10 years older than the parents of her peer group. This is often small stuff, like what is seen as strict parenting, what kind of lifestyle/luxury is taken for granted etc. I don't know (and that's were the criticism is probably spot on) how much of this is quantifiable and can be abstracted into stable sociological categories. But that does not mean it is not there.

Edited by Jo498

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Yeah, I agree with the sentiment of the OP.  I was born in 85.  I had a friend who was born in 82 back in the day when I was living in DC, and he insisted we were of different generations.  It was weird - not only because my brother was almost exactly the same age as him, but because three years is way too small to delineate between a cohort.  But there always has to be a cutoff, right?  I have another (formerly) close friend that was born in 1979.  That's surely different enough?  But dude is more intensely involved with the aspects of pop culture and..other things within my generation, that how am I to say he isn't of the same generation?  

Generations are fluid, and more so, they don't really matter.  The Boomers matter because that generation has, does, and will have an effect on Americana for a very long time.  But that's just cuz a lot of people fucked a lot after WWII.  The rest of the generations?  Who gives a shit.  Obviously, the children of Boomers (i.e. "millennials") are going to be more prolific than other generations.  But this whole BS has always been annoying for me when teaching - am I the same generation as the students I evaluate born from 1990-1999?  I think there are distinct differences, like any 25-30 year old teaching an 18 year old.  But the generations say we're the same.  It's entirely arbitrary and nebulous, and nobody really cares.

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14 hours ago, Mlle. Zabzie said:

So, it turns out, as I have always suspected generations are not a thing.  Well, they are a thing, but they are a thing made up to sell you services and stuff that you probably don't need.  There are good people and bad people of every age and lumping people together in 20 year increments makes legitimately no sense unless you are trying to sell pale pink handbags and luggage. So, I'm proud to be of no generation in particular, and get of my damn lawn.  What say you? 

I agree very strongly, it's so lazy, just like when they try to make out every decade had a very precise and unique identity, like everyone being a hippy in the 60s, and everyone being a punk in the 80s. Culture is much more varied than that. 

It's just more labeling, it's massively overused and needlessly separates people. 

When selfies first became a big thing, I remember all these articles about how they reflect the current high levels of narcissism. Yeah, or maybe they reflect the popularisation of front facing cameras. 

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11 hours ago, lokisnow said:

People who are 82-83 tend to be angst filled about generational labels, so they invented a lame special label for themselves “ex-ennial”

I’d say 83 is millenial and 82 is gen x but ymmv. People on the cusp years of 82-83 can probably just try to pick one or they other they want to identify with 

And what about December 1982? :P

Personally, it's not something I overly care about. As I've got older, I've realised that so long as you're healthy, age really doesn't matter.

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I agree and always have that generations aren't a thing, or I guess more accurately, aren't meaningful labels. They are an incredibly crude way to categorize age groups that don't create anything meaningful out of that data.

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2 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

And what about December 1982? :P

Personally, it's not something I overly care about. As I've got older, I've realised that so long as you're healthy, age really doesn't matter.

Personally as I got even older still my body doesn't quite agree that age is a state of mind. 

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Yes, generations are a useless categorization to do any sort of statistics, because the age in each category keeps changing with time, and there is dynamic entry and leaving of people in each of the categories.

Age demographics at one snapshot in time are incredibly useful on the other hand. But only for that snapshot in time.

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I agree with most of this, although like Jo498 I think the author of the article has probably gone a bit too far in the other direction by seeming to dismiss all age cohort effects as being nonexistent or "unknowable." 

I certainly think there is a lot of confounding in discussion about this with age and period effects. As a Baby Boomer who interacts a lot with younger people because of my profession as a college professor, I often think a lot of the accusations older people make against "Millennials" today sound just like the accusations the World War II generation made against Baby Boomers when we were in our teens and 20s. Older people always think the young are lazy and irresponsible. 

And the way we discuss "generations" is itself a historical artifact of the Baby Boom. The approximate length of succeeding "generations" seems built on the length of the Baby Boom, which is set as those born between 1946 and 1964 because those were the years when the birth rate was substantially higher than it was before. There was nothing really significant in terms of what was going on in the culture that would affect everyone's life experiences to make 1946 and 1964 hugely significant dividing lines. The demography itself would have made some experiences more common for Boomers -- such as having to deal with overcrowded public school classrooms when one was a child -- but those effects are going to vary a great deal by individual, and of course be much more pronounced for those born at the height of the Boom (about 1955 through 1959) than even "Boomers" born before or after the peak. 

I believe that scientific analysis of these effects should focus on much smaller age ranges than what we call "generations". In the US Politics thread on this board a few weeks ago, we briefly discussed the U.S. party identification data from Pew which uses yearly birth cohorts, and how it showed that those born between 1950 and 1953 are significantly more likely to identify as Democrats than other Boomers. There probably is a real cohort effect there rather than just an "age" or "period" effect. (Personally I think it has to do with the combined anxieties from the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal for people who were in their early 20s at that moment in history.) But of course one needs to remember than this significant effect only is a difference of four or five % points -- there are plenty of Democrats and liberals born in other Baby Boom years, and plenty of Republicans and conservatives born between 1950 and 1953. It is really hard for most people to focus on the fact that many different factors have causal impact on these things, and to want to oversimplify it down to whatever is foremost in their mind at the moment. Race, class, and education are probably more important in determining most things than generational cohort effects are, not matter what the size of the cohorts one is looking at -- but certainly there are many individuals who do not fit in with the averages for their race, class, and education either.

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21 hours ago, lokisnow said:

Heh, I got in an argument with some elder millenials the other day that middle age starts in the mid thirties to mid fifties, therefore millenials are entering middle age.

They were horrified and kept insisting middle age doesn’t start until 45, and I replied that where I grew up, people start becoming grandparents at 45, and grandparent hood is de facto older that middle age. :-p

Some friends of mine who graduated high school with me have recently become grandparents.  They’re 47.

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2 hours ago, Ormond said:

I certainly think there is a lot of confounding in discussion about this with age and period effects. As a Baby Boomer who interacts a lot with younger people because of my profession as a college professor, I often think a lot of the accusations older people make against "Millennials" today sound just like the accusations the World War II generation made against Baby Boomers when we were in our teens and 20s. Older people always think the young are lazy and irresponsible. 

And the way we discuss "generations" is itself a historical artifact of the Baby Boom.

I know I'm not the first to bring this up in this discussion, but to me it's such a perfect quote I can't resist "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter..."- Socrates

People tend to view their youth with rose tinted glasses. Just look at how people talk about old timey gangsters, compared to modern day ones. It's special pleading on a mass scale- "yes, we also got up to some trouble in our youth, but..."

Yeah, it does seem like you've got generations quite clearly marked by the world wars, then the baby boomers, which was a period of heavy social change, and people like to continue things. 

I've been Youtube arguing (I know) with a lot of the "society has gone to hell these days" bores, who tend to bring up things like the Kardashians a lot. From my research, it's only a fairly small percentage of young people watching that show, and way more people seem to hate than love them. And I know people who watch some crappy reality tv show, but are very intelligent and interesting people. Sometimes people use entertainment as a means to switch off and relax, not to educate themselves.

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