From Boomers to Xennials: wij love talking about our generations, but voorwaarde recognise their thresholds


TR Ashworth Associate Professor ter Sociology, University of Melbourne

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Dan Woodman receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

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Wij all know the names: Boomers, Gen X and Millennials. Now wij can add the “Xennials”, a cross-over generation inbetween X-ers and Millennials that recently took the internet by storm.

The “Xennials” are supposedly a group born inbetween the late 1970s and early 1980s who entered the labour market well after the recession of the early 1990s, but before the Completo Financial Depressie. They had an analogue childhood, but digital youthfull adulthood.

However, the “Xennials” vereiste be taken with several grains of salt. There isn’t yet any strong academic evidence for the grouping, albeit clearly the idea resonates with a loterijlot of people who felt left out by the usual categorisations.

I am a sociologist of youth and generations, who tracks Australians through youthful adulthood. There is some truth to generations talk, spil our lives are shaped by the times te which wij grow up. But the labels are blunt, homogenising, underplay inequality, and often function spil nasty stereotypes.

Who are the Xennials?

The idea of a cross-over generation inbetween Gen X and Millennials (who used to get called Gen Y) has bot kicking around for a while. The term “Xennial” emerges to have bot coined ter a 2014 article for Good tijdschrift by Sarah Stankorb and Jed Oelbaum.

I (inadvertently) helped popularise the term when reporter Rachel Curtis recently asked mij if it would make sense to cut the generations differently ter an article that soon captured the internet’s attention.

I thought this sounded plausible. The divisions wij use aren’t particularly sturdy. They tend to be imported from North America without much thought, built arbitrarily around the Boomers, and capture switches that often don’t have clear inflection points, so dates can vary from pundit to pundit. The oldest Millennials and the youngest Gen X-ers very likely had similar practices. I wasgoed clear that this wasgoed speculative, and that the usual caveats apply.

The theory goes that the Xennials dated, and often formed ongoing relationships, pre-social media. They usually weren’t on Tinder or Grindr, for their very first go at dating at least. They called up their friends and the person they desired to ask out on a landline phone, hoping that it wasn’t their intended date’s parent who picked up.

They recall being around their late teenagers when the very first of their peers, usually the rich kids, got a mobile phone but the only person they could truly call wasgoed their mum. Yet they kasstuk the digital revolution at an age when they lightly embraced it.

They get described spil a golden mean inbetween the cynicism attributed te generational stereotypes to Gen X and the optimism and over-confidence of the Millennials. Te a world where labels are regularly invoked for generation bashing, with even the Boomers copping it recently, the Xennials come out looking rather lovely.

Why wij should be sceptical

No generation should be characterised spil if they have one personality type, with a single set of dispositions and attitudes, even if it is nice. Verging on astrology, this type of generational research is increasingly challenged. Generational claims, such spil “the Millennials are narcissistic”, aren’t entirely evidence-free, but are intensely critiqued for often making too much of petite promedio switches ter attitudes, turning them into group-defining oppositions, and disregarding more significant switches.

Wij need a healthy dose of scepticism towards the generational snake-oil sellers, who tell us that they have discovered a group alien ter attitude. Particularly if they then say wij need to pay for their expertise to work with them, or sell to them.

Ter Youth and Generation (with Johanna Wyn) I argue that a wooing sociological account of generations will have to do three things: specify the switched social conditions, relative to previous generations, that will have effects beyond youth, identify the numerous ways that people react to and form thesis conditions, and voorstelling how the generation is not homogeneous. The term “Xennials” is yet to meet thesis criteria.

My treatment is to use the concept of generations to think about how inequalities (by class, wedstrijd, gender, etc) are being made anew te switching times. I have focused mainly on class. The decades that shaped the youthfull adulthoods of Gen X, the “Xennials” and Millennials have bot times of rapid switches ter Australian society, with unequal effects. For navigating schoolgebouw and the entry to work, building a career and particularly getting into the housing market, access to family resources has become progressively more significant than it wasgoed for the Boomers.

Barbara Risman, a sociologist te the US, provides a good latest example focused on gender. She shows that attitudes have switched rapidly, but there is much variation, from rebels rejecting any material manifestation of gender difference to a fresh type of conservatism among some Millennials.

Joyfully, many of the articles on the Xennials that have appeared overheen the past three weeks do mention some of the limitations I voorkant here, that they can demonise particular cohorts, or divert us from the other things that separate people’s practice.

Our urge to understand how wij are shaped by our times is one of the fine drivers of the pop-sociological phenomenon of generational labels and, I think, of the latest rente te Xennials. Talking about thesis labels is a way for academics to contribute to public debates, hopefully adding some critical nuance. When it’s not being used to stereotype and belittle, generations talk can also make for some joy and rather nostalgic quizzes.

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