Divided by time: generations reflect on the defining qualities between age groups

Kylie Clifton, Arushi Mithal, and Lucy Madelung

Laughter pours in at the dinner table at a family reunion. Surrounded by familiar faces,  a breathtaking aroma of food drizzles in. In the midst of all this warmth, iPhones buzz and chime from people’s pockets. Some people choose to ignore it, others cannot resist the temptation of checking thenotification. A wave of disapproval washes over. Over the years, the  “phone generation that has it easy” has grown in numerical size and there is now an undeniable rift between generations. 

Generations Defined 

  The generational structure exists because each one is divided by the time, culture, and trends that played a factor in the lifestyle and experience for each generation. The very defining factors of the lifestyle for each generation. Dr. Yolanda Williams a clinical behavior analyst, writes of the six recent generations, “the Greatest Generation, Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. Each generation has its own unique set of characteristics and norms,” she indicates. “For example, the Greatest Generation (born 1901-1924) is known for its patriotism, hard workers, and loyalty to institutions. The Millennials (born 1980-2000) are characterized by their dependence on technology, detachment from traditional institutions, optimism, and open-mindedness.” Each generation serves a purpose, not simply for historic reasons but also to learn about each generation of people by the circumstances of their life. Millennials (1980-2000) and Generation Z (2000-2012) have always lived with access to a computer, a modern convenience that shapes how their life will be conducted. With this context, some stereotypes and initial impressions are placed upon each generation, bringing forth negativity and division as a society and nation.

Generation Z 

It is an apparent fact that older generations view Gen Z as the weaker age group. These generations believe that “Gen Z has been served life on a silver spoon,” says depression baby and Retired Educator of Portage Northern Arthur Nemitz. How do the actual Gen Z-ers feel about this? “Gen Z is full of more open-minded and honest people. We are, for the most part, honest about our feelings and our morals. We are more sensitive to others’ emotions than previous generations and I think we really are the saviors of the future,” says Gen Z-er junior Faith Andrews. The stigma that Gen Z kids are all hippie dippie flower children is just inaccurate. “Our emotions give us strength” Gen Z-er Freshmen Jenna Shefler expressed. “You all say we are lazy and spineless, but we are fixing the world past generations broke. We can get the job done, while being emotionally available. Let’s see if these boomers can even compare.” 

According to The Pew Research Center, “The 18- to 20-year-old members of Generation Z are more likely than Millennials to have finished high school and to enroll in college. Generation Z kids have reportedly more interest in college and going into a well paid field.” Gen Z is full of hardworking dedicated youth, who are anything but lazy. These kids do know what they want, and know it’s up to them to fix this broken world. It’s just up to older generations to sit back and let them.

Generation X 

There is a lurking stereotype that seems to define the social relationship between older generations and this current generation. This is that the older generations always seem to have endless criticism for how this generation is lazy and completely addicted to modern conveniences such as smartphones.

 However, there is more to why there can be such a misconnection between these two groups of people.  According to Pew Research Center, “members of Generation X were born between 1965 and 1980 and Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996.” Most of the adults in teenager’s lives are from Generation X.  

Biology teacher Mrs. Hertel says, “I feel connected to the students at Northern although I would say that I do feel the generation gap.” It is possible for adults from generation X to feel a generation gap with teenagers from this generation due to various reasons. “Things that are incredibly different than when I was a teenager are the access to instant information – no need to read a book if you can look it up and if you want to know you can find info almost immediately; access to a huge variety of music and entertainment which changes how you might classify them by decade – my friends and I all listened to the same 4 radio stations so listening to the same potential 4 songs at one time”. 

However,  Spanish teacher Señora Kaitie Paynich says, “ I don’t know that I feel a generation gap necessarily. I think that teens are pretty much the same as when I was a teenager, but of course, there is different slang, different ideas of what is cool, and that part is hard to keep up with!” Many adults who are millennials feel that this generation and their generation actually are not that different, they just make connections with others differently. Paynich elaborates, “Honestly, I think this generation of teenagers isn’t that much different from previous generations in terms of behavior. The only real difference is how you guys interact. You are the digital age and so your online presence is much more important than it was for my generation when I was a teen.” 

Divided together

The iPhones are off, the tables are clear, and the volume of the room dwindles down. As the reunion comes to a close, each generation is still defined by their own innovations, culture, and trends, but one question still remains: what defines a person, their birth year or who they really are?