Wednesday, July 29, 2020

In My Footsteps: Talkin' 'bout My Generation

     I was born at an interesting time. I fall into a category of people who are old enough to remember things like rotary telephones and Atari, yet young enough to enjoy and appreciate smartphones. We are those in their late-30’s to early-40’s who straddle a line between generations. For most labeled generations, like Baby Boomers, Generation-X, Millennials (Generation-Y), etc there is a basic line of demarcation where one begins and one ends. However recently there has been an idea of something called a ‘micro generation.’ This is a smaller group of people, that I fall into, which is one-part Gen-X, one part Millennial. I have to tell you I think this is spot on accurate and here are some examples why just from my life.

     Growing up I always considered myself a prototypical Gen-Xer. I came of age listening to the Grunge music movement. I prided myself on my flannel shirts and torn jeans. My Senior yearbook photo featured a red flannel shirt. Hell, even to this day I have a Pandora music station called ‘Torn Jeans & Flannel’ celebrating my early-90’s music roots. The group Generation-X typically is referred to as those born between 1965-1980. The name itself was coined by war photographer Robert Capa. His phrase was first uttered in 1952 and referred to young people with a fatalistic view of the future. The term first came into pop culture though in 1991 with the release of Douglas Copeland’s novel of the same name.

     Generation-X had the first personal computers in school, complete with dying on the Oregon Trail. They were kicked out of the house and told to stay outside and play until the street lights came on, yet when they got home they had a Nintendo game console waiting. They have been defined as lazy slackers as they got older yet have been at the forefront of entrepreneurial achievements. Defiant, independent, artistic, these characteristics all fit me and a majority of this generation to different degrees.

     A Millennial, also referred to as Generation-Y, is seen as the generation that directly followed Generation-X. Born roughly from 1981-2004 they are the generation currently stepping out on to the world’s stage in more important roles. They are seen as the group born into the time of technology. The current world of home computers, smartphones, GPS, self-parking cars, and the like are all just another part of the average Millennial’s life. They are a generation nearly double the size of Gen-X, rivaling the size of the Baby Boomer generation.

The original Super Mario Bros. on the NES (Paste
The original Super Mario Bros. on the NES (Paste

     Millennials have been nurtured more than Gen-X, perhaps due to the changes seen in the world by the previous generation. The balance between staying outside to play and the lure of video games has shifted. Despite this fact Millennials are highly technologically savvy with their fingerprints all over smartphone apps and YouTube channels.

     Even though there are rough timelines of when Gen-X ended and Gen-Y began it is not reality to have a hard reset of the personality of a human. That being said there is bound to be some crossover of beliefs and traits of these two generations. Think of it as a Venn Diagram where the two circles bleed over into each other. This meeting of Gen-X and Gen-Y is the previously eluded to ‘micro generation,’ also called a ‘Xennial.’

     Seen as those born roughly between 1977-1983 a Xennial is a person who exudes traits of both generations. I first learned of this term from a USA Today article in December 2018. The idea of being somehow caught between the two generations is also referenced in a piece from July 2013. It actually lists the characteristics of a Xennial. Only after reading this piece did I realize it described me to a T.

     For me personally I relate to absolutely loving the technological advances over the last few decades. Smartphones, streaming media, higher quality laptops, etc, however I am just as much at home grabbing my camera and finding a scenic area to take some pictures. That hearkens back to being a kid and being told to get outside during the summer and play and not to come back until it was dinner time. Granted the world is a different place today and many of the current younger generation probably wouldn’t be able to hours outside away from home so video games and other technology are a safer alternative.

80's Tech vs. Today (Wikimedia Commons, PxFuel)

     As a child of the 1980’s I feel a deep connection to that time period, yet actually came of age in the 1990’s. I like being seen as a Gen-Xer yet cannot deny the deep connection to the Gen-Y way of thinking. My biggest quirk when it comes to being a Xennial is the love of nostalgia while also being excited about what new technology is coming down the pipe. I have a soft spot for vinyl albums, Polaroid instant photos, VHS tapes, Super Mario Bros., Reading Rainbow, and 70’s/80’s television commercial jingles and mascots. Yet I also love being able to type a few words and instantly being able to research something that would have taken me hours and many trips to the library in high school. I love new smartphone apps that make life quicker and easier, I love being able to digitize old home movies on my laptop, and typing the address on a GPS and not having to think about where I’m going. I am a retro techno geek.

     So what about you? Are you a full-on Gen-Xer? Generation-Y(Millennial)? Or a Xennial like me? Check out the links below especially the Buzz Feed list, that might blow your mind like it did mine when I first read it.


My first eBook in 10 years, In Their Footsteps, featuring the interesting stories of Cape Cod's history, is on sale at

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