If you watched our Millennial Think Tank Hangout last week, you heard members of Gen Y push back hard against the notion that they were ‘entitled,’ or in need of validation more than those that came before them. If you listened closely, you also heard that when they spoke of ‘the generations before them,’ they didn’t seem to distinguish much between Gen X and Boomers.
A few times during the Hangout my co-host and fellow Gen X-er Hessie Jones interjected to share a bit about what it was like for us at certain parts of our lives. We talked about the dot.com bubble burst and the deep recession of the early 90’s, being unable to get credit, and feeling powerless as we were labeled ‘slackers.’ I also mentioned that a Boomer friend of mine shared hearing the same sort of labels: “entitled,” “lazy,” and “anti-establishment” placed upon his generation in the 60’s.
By the end of the Hangout it was clear to me that ‘we,’ as in Gen X, had a lot more in common with Gen Y than many in each generation may understand.
Gen X and Our Forgotten Past
I don’t recall being angry when I graduated from college with a double MA and absolutely no job prospects, primarily because of the recession of the early 90’s. I know that I totally understood Tiffany Daniels, when she said “I had done everything right. Studied hard. Got good grades. Earned a scholarship, and graduated with a degree.” But here she was, out of work in 2009. I had the exact same experience in 1992. Returning home in glory with my MA from an ancient Scottish University, I couldn’t get a job waitressing in my hometown.
I was pondering all of this – trying to recall how I felt when I was 20 something and confused about my pathway forward, when Ryan Wynia shared this lengthy, intense post from Durga A. Truex, and so much came flooding back.
The post starts out with “Remember Us;” so much energy is focused on the 70 million+ Boomers and the 80 million+ Millennials, that yes, Gen X is often left out of the conversation when marketers speak. As a marketer, I’ve been so focused on Millennials that I hadn’t thought much about us. Statements like this really brought it home:
- 51 million Americans- that were finishing college and starting our careers exactly as 9/11 and the Recession pulled the rug out from under us.
- 51 million Americans- that have had to delay or sacrifice having children in favor of economic survival.
- 51 million Americans- the first generation in American history to be doing worse than our parents.
- 51 million Americans- that grew up in an economy that has been crashing over & over since we were still in elementary school.
- 51 million Americans- are the original computer, tech, and internet generation.
Sound familiar Gen Y? If you are a Millennial lumping Gen X in with Gen Y, do me a favor and read the entire post – there’s truth in there; it certainly resonated with a lot of people, because at last count it had 2500 shares on LinkedIn.
The list goes on and on, and not all of it is exactly what Millennials are experiencing, but reading it all while nodding my head in the affirmative made it clear to me that we really weren’t that different.
Gen X’s Anger?
While I was pondering all of the above, I came across this Emptyage Post on my Gen X friend-Amy Vernon’s wall. I knew where Amy stood on much of this because she’d dialog-ed with an smart but angry Millennial in the comment section of my last post. And I agreed with her wholeheartedly when she said:
I do get a little tired of Gen Xers being tarred with the same brush as boomers…
… and Amy continued with this:
Xers never felt entitled to anything, because we never had anything. We have much more in common with Millennials than we’re given credit for – we graduated into a recession, were the first generation not to do as well financially as our parents. However, I have a feeling that that quote wasn’t even referring to Gen Xers, because we’re usually just forgotten about anyway.
The Emptypage Post was something Amy and I didn’t read with the same mentality though. I heard anger when I read:
“But Generation X is tired of your sense of entitlement. Generation X also graduated during a recession. It had even shittier jobs, and actually had to pay for its own music. (At least, when music mattered most to it.) Generation X is used to being fucked over. It lost its meager savings in the dot-com bust. Then came George Bush, and 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Generation X bore the brunt of all that. And then came the housing crisis. “
Amy didn’t hear anger, she found the post humorous, and it certainly was for the most part. I told her that perhaps I was paranoid and that I’d re-read it later.
My Fear About THIS Generational Divide
If you read my ‘stuff’ you’ll know that I admire and credit Millennials with a lot. I ‘feel their pain.’ I ‘get’ them. But I’ve also stated repeatedly, I don’t have much of a choice. They HAVE to save us, or else we’re doomed. But that’s not really true, is it? WE have to save us, and by ‘we,’ I mean Gen X and Gen Y. My firm belief in that last statement is the exact source of my paranoia.
Perhaps it is coincidence, but lately I’ve been reading a lot of posts and comments by Gen X-ers speaking out in frustration at Gen Y, or exhaustion at the tremendous amount of attention they receive. That’s natural of course, but it worries me because I am deeply concerned about our future. The only way we save ourselves is together, these two generations who have so much in common.
I wish I had a giant hammer to tamp down the divisive speak coming from both generations and do my regular ‘save the world’ rant. That is not possible, so I do what I do so often when I’m trying to figure out or ‘fix’ something, I write. So here it is, and I’m speaking to BOTH of you: cut it out. We’re in this together. We have no choice.
Photo credit: Brujo+ via photopin cc
VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany’s Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.