Gongol.com Archives: August 2022

Brian Gongol

August 20, 2022

News The generation gap

The New York Times may be the closest thing the United States has to a true newspaper of record, but that doesn't stop it from occasionally veering so far from the mainstream as to appear irredeemably out of touch. In an effort to solicit audience responses to a survey, the Times asked, "Millennials, do you think of yourself as middle-aged? Have you experienced a midlife crisis? NYT Opinion is working on a project that looks at how adults born between 1977 and 1984 view midlife." ■ Perhaps the tweet was the work of a rushed $85,000-a-year social media manager, or merely an inarticulate consolidation of too many thoughts into 280 characters. But the year 1977 didn't birth any Millennials, no matter how liberal one's definition of that generation. ■ The Pew Research Center adheres to a fairly canonical definition of generations, and it defines the Millennial generation as those born between 1981 and 1996. Those four years between 1977 and 1981 may not seem like much, but someone born in 1977 was likely to have been in the workforce by the arrival of Y2K and would have been in their 27th year when Facebook was invented. Nothing about that age is consistent with the cultural markers significant to being a Millennial. ■ As long as young people and new technologies exist, it will appeal to the old to explain their disorientation about those unfamiliar things by imagining that something is new about the nature of youths. Nothing is really ever wholly new about them. They merely respond to the novel stimuli of their age. ■ We think today of the "Founding Fathers" as something of a cultural monolith, but Benjamin Franklin was 70 years old when he and a 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson worked together on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Their 37-year age gap is wide enough that it could span today between a Baby Boomer born in 1963 and a member of Generation Z born in 2000 -- crossing entirely over Generation X and the Millennials. ■ What really matters isn't the silly stuff that creates distinctions between generations, but the work individuals undertake with others. It's superfluous enough to get hung up on the distinctions between generations, but it's doubly silly to identify the differences and then infer meaning when the definitions are all wrong. Newspapers of course have pages (dead-tree or digital) to fill, but if they're going to engage in the thorny practice of typecasting by age, then they ought at least try to get the boundaries right.

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