The Bubble: GenX Meets Millennial

andy&april copy

Andy (GenX) and April (Milennial) from NBC’s “Parks and Rec”. The Millennial start date is 1977 according to PEW Research, and 1982, according to Winograd&Hais. (source: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/april-and-andy/images/21684269/title/april-andy-photo)

I was chatting with a friend the other day who just had a baby girl that she named Felicity. I love the name and asked my friend if it was a family name. She said no, she’s just always liked it, and added that she has always loved the show Felicity that was on WB back in the day. I used to watch that as well, and we reminisced over the Ben/Felicity/Noel love triangle, and admitted we both always wanted Felicity to end up with Ben. A few days after this conversation I was inspired to to binge-watch Felicity on Netflix. Watching this show I realized that I didn’t have an awkward sense of style in my early high school years, and that it was the fault of late-90s style that drove me to wear huge wool sweaters, and baggy pants.

My friend, six years older than me, is generally categorized as a late GenXer, or an early Millennial depending on which source you go by. Either way, I find people in this age group, including my husband, have a lot of shared experience with me, by all sources a definite Millennial (born 1984). There is an interesting little “bubble” I have observed for a while, that seems to evade definition so far. In my opinion, the people in this bubble have so much in common, but still have a slight divide between them. So what is this Bubble all about? I’m going to try and hash it out, so here goes.

THE BUBBLE: When everything was changing. And before the Bubble popped.

If you grew up in the Bubble, you were a teenager or young adult during the early stages of social networking, and post-college-age when the Great Recession hit.  The eldest were among the first to utilize the acronym LOL. The youngest were right out of college and in the workforce when the Great Recession hit, and discovered the empty pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This year span encompasses two distinct generations who have blend of typical GenX and Millennial traits. In the Bubble I’m including people born from 1977 to 1984, so roughly people 28 to 36 years old.

If you’re around that age, you remember the humble beginnings of social media like AOL Instant Messenger that came about in 1997. You remember texting in the early 2000s, before it had really caught on yet. You may have joined MySpace when it first arrived in 2003,  but then traded it for Facebook a few years later. You saw iPods gain popularity around 2004. And finally, you witnessed the he grand accumulation of all previous social media in the iPhone, which came out in 2007.

Then the bubble popped. Where were you when The Great Recession hit in December 2007? You may have been building a career, or were just starting out. Either way, you were in the post-college real world, and between the ages 23-30. While still very new to the workforce, or just entering your stride in your career, you may have witnessed mass layoffs or remember peers who were severely underemployed. Either way, you were actually in the workforce when you witnessed these things.

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My husband circa 1995. Note the Thrasher hat, and the “I HATE SCHOOL” tshirt.

2 GENERATIONS, 1 BUBBLE

My husband was born in 1979, and I was born in 1984. According to some sources, we are from two distinct generations. But we still have a lot in common as true children of the 90s. We grew up watching a lot of the same movies, TVshows, and listened to many of the same bands (though probably different albums). In 1993, I was an Aladdin-obsessed 8-year-old, while he was a girl-obsessed eight-grader who went on his first date that year (to see Aladdin). In 1998, we both chatted on AOL Instant Messenger, where I used acronyms like OMG, as in “OMG I saw Jessica and Justin at Starbucks..together!” While he probably chatted about an upcoming lecture in Psych class, as he was a Sophomore in college.

Shared experiences for Late-GenXers and Millennials continued into adulthood. GenX is tied to Millennials through their use of early social media, and the rise of new technology as young adults. Like GenXers, I (a Millennial) was in the workforce before the Recession, if only for a few years. Millennials my age had opportunities that our younger Millennial cohorts did not experience.

These shared experiences are paired with different generational traits, observed by authors Howe & Strauss, and summed up here. In general, GenXers are more independent and self-reliant than Millennials. They may have a better work ethic, and are extremely reliable. They need freedom from too many rules, and are friendly, and supportive colleagues. They were independent of, and slightly rebellious toward their predecessors, the Boomers. Millennials are more optimistic than GenXers, and group focused. They may be more thinned-skinned, but also tend to have extremely high standards. They can be demanding, and want to be part of something great. Millennials are not rebellious against predecessors, GenX or Boomers.

THE COMPATIBILITY

Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon from AMC’s The Walking Dead (source: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/daryl%20dixon)

Even though there is a slight generational divide in this Bubble, here is why I believe it to be cooperative, and compatible. Early-Millennials love the self-reliance, and freedom of individuality of GenXers. And I think, late-GenXers see how a tough economy has burdened Millennials who are just younger than them. They recognize the Millennial sense of purpose, and desire to succeed, and want to support it. On top of that, Millennials want work with people just up the ladder from them, including those who are closest to them in the generational divide.

What is even more interesting is that they are close enough in age to display this turn in history, and generational divide in the flesh, through the playful relationships of siblings, and friends. Or even through the electricity of couples and spouses. So there is a lot of love in this Bubble. As an early-Millennial, I imagine late-GenXers saying “I’ve got your back, because you’re going to need it.” And early-Millennials saying, “I know, and thanks I couldn’t do it without you.” They are the Daryl Dixon to our Rick Grimes, or if you don’t watch The Walking Dead, the Han Solo to our Luke Skywalker.

Both generations crammed in this bubble of history have shared childhood memories of the slower pre-social media world, and witnessed a historical change that impacted us as adults. While aware of the small chasm between us, we choose to reach out in solidarity and hold hands anyway, looking knowingly into each others’ eyes as if to say “I remember when…”

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25 thoughts on “The Bubble: GenX Meets Millennial

  1. I absolutely love the Han Solo vs Luke Skywalker comparison. I don’t watch The Walking Dead so the Star Wars analogy appealed to me.

    I can completely see the “rebellious” Han Solo vs. the more straight edged Luke Skywalker analogy, despite the fact that technically they are both rebels.

    Han Solo would probably rebel against ANY establishment, Luke only rebels against a specific type of establishment. The difference is also shown in the divide between punk rock of the 70s and the early days of hip-hop. Hip-hop is an anti-specific establishment artform, punk rock is just generally anti-establishment artform.

  2. Very interesting. I right right in the midst of a millenials, so it’s always interesting to see perspectives of the older generation and the younger millenais. I love Andy and April though, they work so well together.

    Anyways, great blog post.

    • Thanks! It was fun to take a look up the ladder, and write about the commonalities with people just older than me. I may do a post on “a look down the ladder” to people just younger than me as well. I have a younger sister who is a later Millennial, so maybe I’ll draw on that experience. Thanks for reading!

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  5. I’m glad you point out the GenX here. I feel like they sometimes get combined with the Boomers before them or the GenY after them. Where in reality they are their own identity that is understanding. I can see the give and take, the cooperation between a GenX and GenY working extremely well. And I love the Walking Dead reference 😉

  6. This is completely beside the point of your piece, but I’m so happy you recently binge-watched Felicity because I did that just a few months ago and felt so silly about it. Anyway, great piece. Rings true. I’m not as early a Millennial as you (1988) but I still experience this overlap with Gen X, which I think has a lot to do with having 2 Gen X siblings and 1 very early Millennial brother. Obviously, my experiences blended with their own as they passed down the interests of their own generation to me.

    • Haha! Yep, you’re not the only one who secretly watches Felicity on Netflix. It’s funny that it’s only 4 seasons but managed to be a cult-classic. I agree, the Bubble could extend to even later than my birth year (1984). Glad you could relate with this piece & thanks for follow!

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  10. I always thinking “remembering the 80s” should be a cutoff. I think culture changed so much as soon as the 90s started. I don’t think the changes in the 90s were as dramatic, but I think the change from the 80s to 90s was. Music went from bubbly and over-the-top to subdued overnight, and rap and grunge went mainstream in 1990. Then the obesity epidemic started, divorces continued to skyrocket, drug education became a big thing, atheism skyrocketed, fashion went from extravagant to plain and boring, with it becoming much more common for women to wear sweat pants and tshirts out (and not just to buy a carton of milk late at night)….and people became sarcastic, sarcastic, very self-deprecating humor became a staple of tv shows and sitcoms (think Roseanne or Grace under Fire as opposed to Family Ties or Facts of Life). I also think that, in general, things started become a lot more lax. So that was a good change in the 90s when it came to gay rights for example, but not in terms of other items, I think, like sexual promiscuity.

  11. I was born in 1979. I feel I have a lot more in common with Gen Y (early – up to 1985) then Gen X people. To put things in perspective, I was in still in diapers when “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” came out. That is considered the ultimate Gen Xer movie. People of my age group seem to have the hardest time fitting in. We grew up with beepers and remember “Boy Meets World” on TV and “Blossom”. Also part of the early social media sites such as myspace and facebook. I used the internet as a teenager , and grew up with home computers. Its like we’re too old for Melineals and too young for Gen Xers. I don’t meet many people born in my birth year either. I meet a lot of people born just before or just after.

    • You don’t meet people born your year either?! It is funny you say that. I live in NYC and at work, when I go out, etc., everyone is either born in the early-mid 70s or 1985-1987ish. I don’t know where the rest of the people my age are (I’m 1981)! Unlike you though, I don’t feel much in common with 1985+ people, so it is frustrating.

      Also, I think there are other GenX HS movies, that isn’t THE only one. There are also Just One of the Guys, Heathers, Weird Science, and Pretty in Pink….

    • I was born in 1979 also; am somewhat a latebloomer and can agree, I don’t meet many people in our age group either in certain environments, usually people who are older or younger than me. If I do meet people in our age group, most of the time they are married with kids or have kids or have careers.

      • I wrote something similar in a comment somewhere. I’m glad others born in ’79 agree. I hardly ever meet people born our year, whether in-person or online. It seems to be a low-birth-rate year. When the blogger wrote about her husband being a “late Millennial/early Generation Xer,” I guessed immediately that he was born in ’79. Our year seems to be the one in the grayest area between Millennial and GenXer. We just don’t quite fit into either. I agree that we’re more Millennial in terms of culture and tech savviness. But we’re still not quite that Millennial, even if pop quizzes show that we’re Millennial.

        I find it interesting that we write in a similar way, and probably think in a similar way. I’m often baffled by language on the internet – people seem to write/think in a jargon that I just haven’t picked up on. We might be the oldest people who started using “LOL.” 🙂 People a couple of years younger than me seem to fit into the “hipster” or Reddit vibe much better than me. I agree with Meade – “people of my age group seem to have the hardest time fitting in.”

        I’ve often wondered why I didn’t quite fit in. What’s worse is that I was born just a few days before 1980. I’ve always thought various factors had to come together to make my life what it is. 🙂 Online, I’ve often felt, increasingly, that my thinking/writing style just doesn’t match anyone else’s.

        It’s interesting that so much of what this blogger writes I can actually relate to – the Pinterest, Instagram, Felicity, etc. – even though she’s 5 years younger than me.

    • Do people our age seem to act older and more mature, yet still have all the tastes and worldview of Millennials a few years younger? It seems people our age don’t have a particularly youthful vibe, yet we still have youthful, current, tech-savvy interests. I think there’s a disconnect in people our age – seeming mature and even stodgy/conservative – yet have youthful, on-trend activities and interests.

      Here’s a list of celebs born in ’79: http://www.imdb.com/search/name?birth_date=1979-01-01,1979-12-31
      A lot of them have been around for awhile and are very much part of our culture and conscience (e.g. Claire Danes, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Heath Ledger). I’m surprised some people on the list are the same age as me – I thought they were older (e.g., John Krasinski, Rosario Dawson, Kate Hudson). Most of these people are a bit passe; their time in the limelight has gone. ’79 is such a sad year! Most celebs on this list seem to have been more popular when they were younger, and now they seem kind of old and C-list.

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  13. Hi, I am in this bubble. Born in 1978 and was a kid during the 80’s and a teen during the 90’s. The difference here is that people born in the early years of GenX (1960-early 70’s) are alot different than say, my group (mid 1970’s-early 80’s). For example, a GenXer who graduated high school in say 1985 is completely different than one who graduated in 1997. Those kids grew up in the 70’s and were teens in the 80’s. Yes, still both have the same characteristics, rebellious, independent and etc. but different. The 90’s were different than the 80’s like some others have noted. Grunge replaced hair bands, pop and hip-hop became mainstream when for most of the 80’s rock was the mainstream. Movies like Pulp Fiction, Dazed and Confused and Natural Born Killers were all classic of the 90’s feel and rebellion. Bill Clinton was the President with sexual scandals and impeachment so different than the 80’s Ronald Reagan and “Just Say No”. Yes, shows like Roseanne were popular because those shows portrayed actual life. Reality tv like Jerry Springer were hits, before everyone realized they were staged. One thing both can include in their cultural difference to the millennials was MTV! Both the 80’s and 90’s could proudly proclaim MTV, not todays MTV but actual music videos and music oriented shows oh and Beavis and Butthead (90’s). “Rock” music in the 90’s was called “Alternative” but now looking back it was actually the last of “rock” music being mainstream as a genre. We had Guns-n-Roses, Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Weezer, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis, Bush, Counting Crows, Dave Mathews Band, Black Crowes, and on while Millennials time frame shifted to a more pop driven mainstream (this started though in the late 90’s) with less and less actual “rock” music, a staple to GenXers going back to the late 70’s.

    • Hey, fellow 1978 baby here and I found myself nodding along to your whole comment. Sums it up very well. I agree that late Gen Xers like us are probably a bit different from those born in the early part of the generation, but we still have some of the same characteristics. And yes, we have to include MTV in our cultural differences with Millennials!

  14. Yep. Bubble here, I was born in 77 and married a man born in 82. We have much more in common than I do with men older than me or he does to women younger than him. His siblings are all born in the early 90s, heart of millennial generation and we may as well be on different planets. I work with a lot of older gen xers, they all hate rap music and reminisce about muscle cars they drove when they were in high school in 1980 listening to Bruce Springsteen and the rock bands of the era. I don’t have anything in common with them, I loved rap and hip hop, and wanted SUVs and Asian sports cars like Acura and Honda (as did my 1982 born husband). There is a bubble, and we should be Generation Y which is what the post-Xers were originally called until younger millennials picked “millennial” themselves. I would even be generous and say 1975-1985 could be included. We are a different little sub-generation of our own.

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