Being a young person, it can be quite hard getting along with elder people - we sometimes can’t find common sense with our parents, when our grandmas and grandpas often can’t even comprehend what are we talking about. It seems that we simply belong to different generations, and the gap between us lies on a value-level, therefore, we will never really understand each other. In my opinion, it’s a very slippy road to step on.
The theory of generations has been developed since the beginning of the last century by Karl Manheim. Later, Neil Howe and William Strauss developed so-called fourth-turning theory, which described a generational cycle, consisting of 4 different types of generations and repeating itself every 80-90 years. This theory was quickly picked up by social scientists, and economists even though the scientific background of it was often criticised.
According to the theory, now we have 4 main generations living together.
First one is baby boomers - people born from 1944 to 1964. They were born after WWII on a wave of post-war optimism and desire to make the world a better place when they were in their adolescent they took part in hippie movements or protests of 1968. However, now they’re not so progressive: they rely mostly on traditional media, they prefer to pay in cash and visit banks in person instead of using e-banking and so on. They lived in a time of economic rise and captured much of the benefits, therefore, now they are considered to be pretty privileged and even too much consuming. Their concern is how to get themselves fit into this rapid-changing world, provide themselves with high-quality healthcare and a decent retirement, even though they are happy to spend some money to support their kids (who are far from being kids right now). They also consider themselves pretty unique and very experienced and therefore love to teach youngsters life, which pisses people off. You may have heard the phrase “OK, boomer” - it was created this year after some man left a comment saying generation Z and millennials are too infantile and can’t realise their beliefs are far from real life. “OK boomer” became trendy and made young people say it to everyone 50+ when they try to read them morals.
Next-generation is Generation X. They are born between 1965 and 1979, and also can be called “Generation MTV” or “Generation latchkey”, because they often had to come back home from schools and stay without any adult supervision while their parents were working hard. They believed to be pragmatic, a bit cynical and seeking good work-life balance. They use both traditional media and online-sources, they are comfortable with digital solutions even though they still prefer human-to-human contact as it seems nicer to them. Right now they’re facing many issues: their parents are ageing and need their help, their kids are entering their adulthood and need support for university studies and so on, they have to think about their savings for retirement as well. Unlike their parents, they don’t want to be over-controlling on their children and get control in every aspect of their lives, however, they would intervene hardly if they would think their children are doing something really wrong.
Next one is pretty famous - you couldn’t miss the term “millennials”. They are called this way because their adulthood started at the edge of millennia, and people born from 1980 till 1994 are believed to be a part of this group. They watch TV but prefer Netflix over classic TV broadcast, they are very active online and do most of their digital activities via mobile platforms. They are believed to be open-minded and tolerant, team-oriented and self-confident. They would not tolerate bad service or any form of discrimination. They are also not really eager to associate themselves with this generational division, considering it a big set of stereotypes.
And the last and the youngest one - generation Z, born from 1995 till nowadays. They are pretty much born with a phone in their hand, they’ve spent much of their childhood playing with their parents’ smartphones and tablets, and later - had a device of their own. They feel themselves really comfortable online and live in a hyper-connected world, therefore, perceive the world rather not from a national, but a global perspective. They are learning fast and very good with big amounts of information. Unlike their "ancestors", they like to educate themselves and define their political views, take an active position on the world-scale issues. They also try to become financially independent and prevent themselves from getting into consumerism.
Now, as we described all of them, we can see they look really, really different, but if that really so?
Of course, our grandparents lived in pretty different times than we do, and it plays significant role in our self-definition, characteristics, identities and so on. But human beings are also very flexible by their nature, they never stop adapting and changing themselves. I’m pretty sure that most of our grandparents also have a smartphone and even though they wouldn’t post a video on TIkTok, they can use some other apps to stay in touch with their loved ones. The same goes along with all the other psychological portraits of generations.
Elder people are often told of as people with their own mindset, never listening to others and impossible to convince in pretty much anything. But aren’t we, youngsters, the same when we come to listening to our parents and grandparents? Maybe, this has much more to do with our own belief in the supremacy of our point of view common for all human beings, not with the fact that we were born in different decades.
We are humans, we are different and complicated. Generation theory is interesting, but it’s far from being perfect, and in my opinion - it creates dangerous tendencies to put stereotypes on people just because of their age. You can be young and uncomfortable with too much of mobile apps on your smartphone or you can be 60+ and record vines and TikToks together with your grandchildren. So let’s remember that when facing someone from a different age group and never treat people the same because of the year they were born on. We are all different and special in our own way, and it plays a much bigger role than the portrait of generation we belong to.