On the cusp of X and Y

One of the weird things about being my age is the fact that I’m stuck between two generations, those being “Generation X” and “Generation Y”. I’m one of those neither here, nor there people simply because my birth year falls squarely between where Gen X finishes, and Gen Y begins. I guess the cool bit is that I can lay claim to being in either group depending on the conversation at hand, and the uncool thing being that I’m still often left feeling like an outsider trying to join the cool kids.

Now lets see… Generation X are the cool kids of yesterday. These are all the people who were born after the baby boomers… you know who the baby boomers are right? Those were the kids who were born after World War 2 when everyone raced home to celebrate the end of the war, the only way they knew how. Team Generation X were the cool kids of the late 60s the 70s and in some cases the very early 80s. These were the kids that decided they had a voice and that everyone had to hear them. These were the kids who had discovered a way to talk back to their parents, to talk back to their governments and that peace was something to aim for (whether it be achieved via drugs or not, either way was cool). Generation X was about good music and feeling good.

Then along came Generation Y, they started popping up somewhere near the mid 80s to early 90s. Team Y are huge fans of technology particularly anything that involves communication. Where Team X had figured out how to talk back to their parents at the dinner table, Team Y had figured out how to do it from the other side of town with the use of mobile phones and the internet.

Now lucky for me I’m fluent in both Gen X and Gen Y lingo which is probably a good thing being that as a teacher I am talking to students who are relishing their Team Y status and also talking with older colleagues who love their Team X history. Yeah I just realised that I referred to Gen X as history, and Gen Y as current, but that’s reality isn’t it?

So what’s great about being on the cusp? Well for starters I’m old enough to remember the beginning’s of all the cool current gadgets. I remember using email for the first time, photoshop, chat sites, early online forums, live journals,  making online friends, website design, html coding, original personal computers (oh man remember the excitement of Windows 95?), the beginning of gaming consoles (Atari, then Sega Master system) and of course mobile phones and PDAs.

What’s interesting now though, is that where Gen X started with the creation of most of these items (Gates & Jobs and their PC/Mac platforms)… well Gen Y has just picked up the baton and charged off in a new direction. “Hey we have all this potential now, let’s turn it into social media!” So now we have Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and smartphones that integrate all of this so that our Gen Y gang are able to literally stay connected 24/7 without any fear of not knowing what’s going on… (cause surely the only way to find out now is via a tweet from CNN, or a facebook status update from friend #456 who I added because they requested the add and I didn’t want to appear rude even though I didn’t know them).

I know most of my students are connected to their phones, and why shouldn’t they be when they’ve invested that much time into them? Do I as a cusp member worry about this seemingly unhealthy connection that Gen Y have with their technology? Well I guess the answer is yes… though I do often wonder if my concern is not partially tied with my other allegiance to Gen X who don’t have the same devotion to all the digital clutter that’s now going on. I think the major concern is the replacement of physical relationships with digital ones… as a human an integral part of what we are, is our ability to connect with another and to develop empathy, to develop love and to genuinely care for others, this is important not only for our own social lives, and our chances of creating a happy life as individuals, but also on a global scale.

Being on the cusp means I’m still able to walk away from technology and social media without it feeling like I’m losing something, in fact often I’ve misplaced my phone or ipod and not even noticed for days. These days Gen Y, through their overwhelming desire to use social media, are forcing us to become more and more transparent. Gone are the days when the press could give vague or inaccurate accounts of an event… to do so means inviting the ridicule of thousands via facebook and twitter. Governments are forced to think even harder about the way they phrase things that they wish to announce, lest they lose out under the scrutiny of hundreds of instant experts who will sway public opinion via their online blogs and vlogs.  Though transparency is a lovely thing, when we talk about governments, politics and economics… it’s not always a great thing when it comes to personal relationships, whether it be romantic, friendship or family like. There’s something lovely about personal space and the sense of mystery.

A devoted Gen Y member told me, they always have to check their facebook to know exactly what their friends are doing all the time, they neeeeeed to know what is being said! Because if they miss something on there, they could all very well miss an in-joke, or not know a conversation friends are having, and just like that they’ll be shunned by their friendship group. That thought made me think, what kind of pressure are the younger Gen Y members under? Already living in the most stimulated climate to ever exist and yet above all of that there is still a pressure to conform, and there’s no room for a time-out. So the conversation that has to occur now is quiet simple yet alien in concept for a lot of our Gen Yers… and that is… that it is Okay to miss stuff, and that it’s okay to not always know what’s going on everywhere at every second of every moment. That it’s okay to switch off, to find respite from all the beeping, and the tweeting and vlogging.

Whilst I sometimes feel like I don’t belong to either Generation, I don’t feel bad for it. There’s wonderful things in both and I’m grateful that I can connect with both comfortably, yet I’m glad I don’t feel the pressure of needing to always be connected, nor the pressure of needing to understand what all this new technology is exactly.

So here’s to all my fellow Generation Gap fillers! We’re a lucky kind of people! 🙂


One Response to “On the cusp of X and Y”

  1. love it. a perfect description, and I am going to link to it. thanks.

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