Dear Millennials, Your Time Is Almost Over
When the oldest among your generation are starting to have children, you know you’re heading towards the inevitable decline. People have spent nearly a decade delineating, discussing, and debating the group of humans born between 1980 and the mid-‘90s, although exact brackets shift left or right depending on who’s doing the labeling.
I’m a late-born Gen Xer, right on the cusp, and if this were an astrological reading, it means I share traits of both signs. So I wield my right to be a crotchety old fart who complains, “they don’t make music like they used to,” because suddenly anyone with a SoundCloud account and a dubstep app is a “producer.” But I also acknowledge my Millennial tendencies—I get all of my news on social media and prefer communication via messaging rather than actual phone calls.
And now I’m seeing, online of course, that Millennials in their late 20s and early 30s have started to procreate, blithely posting photos of their post-partum pride across all networks, even creating IG accounts, FB pages and at the very least, a unique hashtag for these innocents (Gen-Xers who have children later in life do this too—it’s an Internet thing).
I know more about other people’s kids than should be necessary, as others may know about mine (or at least the image of a sunlit, magical childhood we try to curate) that I wonder what lasting effect of all this sharing will have on the psyche of the child who will one day be old enough to view the collated and very public albums of his or her formative years. Will he feel that his rights to privacy was violated? Will she even have a concept of privacy in the future? Kendall Jenner, a borderline post-Millennial, barely remembers a time without invasive cameras everywhere in her home, thus growing up with a conflated sense of personal identity and public image, reality and “reality.” Perhaps this is the future of human consciousness.
Kendall Jenner, a borderline post-Millennial, barely remembers a time without cameras everywhere, growing up with a conflated sense of personal identity and public image, reality and “reality.”
Katy Steinmetz, who wrote the cover article “Help, My Parents are Millennials” for Time magazine, describes it this way: “This is the first generation of digital natives bearing digital natives. Social media, for all its good, has also turned parenthood into a stressful public sport. Millennials are trying to manage addictions to smart devices while also keeping their kids away from screens AND making sure their kids understand technology, which will be the key to good jobs.”
The average baby is on social media within 57 minutes of being born. It’s been predicted that kids who grow up with their videos and pictures plastered all over the Internet won’t think it such a big deal, as all of their peers will also have had public identities crafted for them by Like-sourcing parents. These kids will create other identities, private ones that they share in their own personal interactions, maybe even eschewing any significant online presence. Each person will be a multiverse of identities, but this is nothing new, only more amplified in tech times.
This new batch of babies, who will become part of the post-Millennials and whatever else comes after, is the one you should be wringing your hands over. The post-Millennials (alternately called Generation Z, Generation Edge, or Homelanders, for those in the U.S.), the oldest of whom would be in college or high school now (again, depending on the trend forecaster), are said to be more fluid in terms of gender, racial, and religious identities.
“They’re intrinsically egalitarian, attuned to fairness not in an activist manner, but in a kind of post-liberal, ‘the world is already as it should be’ kind of way,” says youth culture expert Scott Hess of Spark marketing agency. “They are more global and open in mindset than any previous generation, having grown up with a media operating system that is itself inherently global and inclusive in nature.”
Boomers had to deal with the slackerish Xers, Xers had to make way for and adapt to Millennials, and Millennials in turn will have to adjust to Edgers edging them out.
A team of strategic researchers called The Sound made a direct comparison of Gen Edge with the Millennials, and where the former are considered entitled, the Edgers are found to be resourceful. They are reformists versus conformists, choose offline experiences instead of online, and value “alternativeness” over authenticity (well, they are being raised by Gen Xers). I’m thinking 19-year-old Tavi Gevinson as a good example, followed by Jaden and Willow Smith, who are 17 and 15 respectively. They’re innovative and original, appreciate non-traditional forms of education, and are mature beyond their years. Edgers sound awesome. Move over, Millennials.
It’s tradition for the previous generation to malign the one coming in to power. In the workplace and in life, Boomers had to deal with the slackerish Xers, Xers had to make way for and adapt to Millennials, and Millennials in turn will have to adjust to Edgers edging them out. But they’re really no different from you as I am from my parents, something I learned especially after I became a parent. We’re all humans, just arrested in different stages of evolution.