I read Douglas Copeland‘s novel Generation X when I was in my 20s, and it really put a fine point on all the angst, anger and alienation I’d been feeling my whole life living in the shadow of the boomers. It defined my generation for me, and gave me such clarity about my life.
Now that I’m a middle aged, parenting Gen Xer, I observe subsequent generations with a more detached view. I know now that not everyone is defined as easily as I felt Generation X defined me. Still, I do find generational definitions have some merit. Like the way Generation Y is defined as having strong egos and an endless supply of self-esteem.
My favourite example of this was an episode of American Idol (which someone of course pointed me to on youtube back when) when a really bad singer had her tryout on one of the early episodes. The judges told her she couldn’t carry a tune and should stop trying to force her singing on anyone. She left the room head held high and told the camera “I don’t care what they say. My parents always encouraged me to believe in myself. I know I’m good” or something to that effect. Gen Y grew up with their boomer parents constantly feeding them positive self esteem to the point that these kids had their cups running over with it.
Anyhow, that’s old news now. Gen Y has grown up, and they’re becoming parents now too. They are learning humility to go along with esteem, just like we Gen Xers learned humility to along with the chips on our shoulders.
But whither Generation Z? That apparently is the moniker given to the next group of kids, which according to some demographers includes my kids, born in the early 2000s.
I read a column today by one of my favourite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, called What Generation Z will be like at work. She says that Gen Z kids will not be team players (that’s my youngest!), will be more self-directed (my youngest again), will process information at lightning speed (my oldest for sure and possibly my youngest) and will be smarter (both my kids, but of course I say that, they’re my kids!) than Gen Y. So perhaps my boys are smack in the definition for Generation Z. I hope they won’t grow up bitter like my Gen X gang, nor self-absorbed like some Gen Ys tend to be (Please don’t flame me. You know it’s true!). Of course, considering the back talk my older one has been exhibiting the last couple weeks, maybe he’s still in the Gen Y cohort. Or not.
Are your kids heading towards the definition (so far) of Generation Z? Or is it too soon to predict what our kids will be like as adults. Discuss.