Years pass and younger generations stray further and further from their predecessors; be it Millennials or Boomers, Gen. X or Gen. Z, each age group bears unique qualities. These generational differences are clear to see for all on a country-wide scale and even in the Clarksburg community itself in the form of memes.
“The farther generations are apart, the bigger the differences become. Some of the differences are in terms of expectations of the world and others are in terms of attitude (towards technology, towards a multicultural society, towards morality/ethics, etc.)” said English teacher Lisa Marshall.
Oddly enough, the stark contrast between generations is present only in the United States alone. Labels such as these for varying generations do not exist in other countries, nor do strict definitions of birth years; that is a uniquely American phenomenon.
“Most other countries have a significantly more homogeneous population. I think that makes generational change less noticeable… because there is a much clearer sense of culture and tradition that gets passed on from generation to generation,” said Marshall.
Though people’s interpretations of generational cutoffs vary by a few years, there is mostly consensus. Pew Research defines the generations as the following: Generation Z was born after 1997, Millennials were born from 1981-1996, Generation X was born 1965-1980, Baby Boomers were from 19646-1964, and lastly, the Silent Generation was born 1928-1945.
Many stereotypes exist, and most are negative.
“Boomers are technologically challenged and judgemental towards the younger generations,” said senior Kaili Nakanishi.
In response to this reputation, the “Okay, Boomer” meme was born. Typically, the meme is used to reject the words or actions of an older person, mocking them. Though it is often used lightheartedly, it is sometimes used as commentary on the negative actions or ideas from the older generation. This may include areas such as values perceived as outdated or historical actions, such as contributions to global warming. As a result, younger generations may have negative views on the oldest generation.
“Millennials are in debt because of Boomers and Gen. Z might not have a good environment because of what Boomers have done over the years,” said junior Alex Sasha Goyal.
While many spread the meme for comedic purposes, using a meme to poke fun at an entire generation can yield both benefits and consequences.
“It [is] a healthy reality check on Boomers that things don’t have to always be the same as they remember or want, but on the other hand, it can be a way of quickly dismissing ideas as antiquated and irrelevant because of whose mouth the ideas come from instead of listening to the idea’s merits,” said Marshall.
The fact that there is a meme dedicated to generational differences only emphasizes the divide in America. Though Boomers perhaps have the most specific and widespread stereotype, the clear-cut personas of varying generations span across most generations. However, Gen. X has not earned any nicknames, memes, or reputations.
Millennials, on the other hand, are a different story. According to Nakanishi, Millennials are often perceived as “stressed and financially struggling,” known for being young adults who like avocado toast and hipster restaurants.
Though they cover a massive age gap, Millennials and Gen. Z, or Zoomers, have many similarities, particularly their changing values or actions.
“Millennials and Gen. Z are trying to make society better for ourselves and future generations,” said Goyal.
This hope to improve the world ranges from politics to climate change and so much more; the younger generations are often perceived to be the ones who have the time to fix the world’s problems because they are the ones that will be growing up in it.
While the unfair judgment of other generations can be harmful, generational divides themselves are not harmful. Times are changing and so are people; that is natural. However, condemning others is not.
“Where the divide comes is when someone from one generation imputes a particular value judgment to beliefs held by someone of another generation — not only is what they believe different, but it’s wrong,” said Marshall. “This keeps us divided and at the same time provides us an excuse NOT to look for common ground.”
This story was originally published on The Clarksburg Howl on January 6, 2020.