Monday, September 14, 2009

Talking about our generations

After a bit of waiting, we've finally got our new computer. It's a nice desk top one. The last two we've had have been lap tops. After being initially impressed by the size, I found they weren't really as gutsy and reliable as desk tops in my opinion. My dh was out when I went to pick it up so my ds1, Logan, set it up. Sometimes I wonder at his deftness at this sort of thing. I've been his main homeschooling teacher for several years and I've certainly never taught him all of this computer knowledge because I don't know much about them. I think it's incredible that the younger generation seem to have been born with this built-in part of their brain that knows all about computers!

Then I came across an article in the newspaper which makes a lot of sense and seems to explain it. Through the ages, each of the generations seems to have born with more innate technological knowledge than the one which came before. In a nutshell, here they are.

The Builders (born 1920 - 1945) This is my parents' generation. They lived through the Great Depression and WW2. As a result of living it tough in their childhood and youth, they exhibit a strong work ethic and financial frugality. They built the current infrastructure, institutions and the economy.

The Baby Boomers (born 1946 - 1964) My older brother and sister surprisingly fit into this one, having been born in the early 60s. I would have guessed that all the babies born as a result of returning soldiers might have been over by then but apparently not. This generation was born into an era of freedom and financial prosperity. They are characterised as being vocal on social issues and liberal in outlook. I guess you'd have to say the Baby Boomers are probably the generation to have 'invented' computers.

Generation X (born 1965 - 1979) This is the one I fit into. We're portrayed as being cynical about traditional authority and open to new forms of communality but with underlying fear of the financial future as well as threats such as terrorism. I would say we're the 'guinea pigs' of new technology such as computers. I can remember the teachers writing on blackboards with chalk during my earliest Primary School years. I can remember thinking my electric typewriter was just perfect during my mid to late secondary years. I think I can probably pin point when computers took off. It was about 1985 onwards, yet I never owned one until I got married in 1992. Now I have fun telling my kids all about how much more annoying it used to be to research assignments during my school days. If our class had to research Shakespeare, for example, we'd have to rely on the World Book encyclopaedias in the school library. The quickest and luckiest would grab the "S" ones straight away. The rest of us had to use our creativity and search for things like E for Elizabethan theatre instead. If anyone had told us about the internet and Wikipedia, where everyone can research from his own home, we would have been awed.

Generation Y (born 1980 - 1994) I have a couple of nephews and a niece in this one. In a work sense, they've been labelled as a fickle, flighty "me-now" generation, based on the tendency to blend work and study and regarded as superficial and driven by consumerism. Very computer-canny and smart. To me, they often appear far more sure of themselves and their direction than I ever was. They seem to have more of an air of maturity than I used to, and are more comfortable in their own skins.

Generation Z (born 1995 - 2009) This is the one my kids fit into. Logan just scrapes in, being born in February '95. We never realised there was such a thing as Generation Z until we read this article. Reared in the social networking and user-driven content era, they are extremely tech-savvy, creative and confident with a strong work ethic and financial conservatism. Even more so than Generation Y. They think this might be a result of having more mature parents (because the Gen Xs who are their parents tend to have many of their children at a later age than their own Builder and Baby Boomer parents before them).

Generation Alpha (to begin January 1st, 2010) We'll just have to wait to see how these turn out. They will mostly be the children of Gen Y it would seem.

I find this sort of research interesting. Human traits are essentially universal across the ages of course, yet I see these generational differences play out over and over again. My Builder parents have retained their Depression, work-hard-and-don't-spend-too-much mentality, as if they're not really living in the real world but still in some historical time period of the past. Mum will comment, "That's a lot of money for a book," when she's talking about quite a normal price. She seems to still think they should be sixpence or tuppence or something from her pre-decimal era.

And the Builders and some Baby Boomers are still very rigid about teaching things like rules and grammar and mathematics parrot fashion. My first editor, who was an older lady, commented that in her opinion, it was obvious that I'm from Generation X. Apparently we are the first generation who weren't taught this sort of thing with such strict legality at school. True enough, my English lessons emphasised the thoughts and feelings of characters rather than pulling every sentence apart to work out what each of the words are.

I've noticed that while Gen Y seem far smarter and more confident than me in some ways, they sometimes display a lack of general knowledge, or trivia. When I did my radio interview, the lady remarked that Gen Y tend to use far many more 'ums and ahs' which she has to edit out of the recording.

Perhaps each generation learns the skills they need to know in the society in which they live. It amuses me when my "Builder" father expresses concern that our kids might not be as brightly educated as he used to be at their age, but then relies on my Y and Z nephews and sons to help him trouble shoot and fix all his computer problems. What we can learn from each other is immense.


  1. I'm not quite sure I agree with some of the differentiations. And why do the generations seem to cover shorter and shorter spans? This put our family in four generations! My husband is at the tail end of the baby boomers, I'm Gen X, Marina is Gen Y, while Sierra and Chase are Gen Z! And because they were homeschooled, I don't know if they really fit the models! Marina actually resents being part of Generation Y. I have to agree that I don't see her as superficial and consumer driven.

    Homeschoolers! We break molds. Marina just said all homeschoolers are Generation Enigma!

    Peace and Laughter,

  2. Interesting post, Paula. I have heard/read these kinds of descriptions and wondered if the description came first and society followed, at least for some people. I do believe that each generation has something to offer the others. Being born at the end of the Baby Boomers, Todd and I have always felt we were more conservative than a lot of Boomers but as we get older, that may be changing.

    By the way, I appreciated your previous post. Reading about the fruits of the spirit really showed me areas I need to work on. Too much anxiety, not enough faith.

    Enjoy your week!

  3. Gen Z are also known as the Millenium babies ...