It’s been a few years since I last picked up a Douglas Coupland book. I devoured Generation X because, y’know, it was the nineties and I was born either too late to be GenX or too early to be a millennial. There’s even a marketing term for it and everything.
Like the Gen-Xers, as children we played outdoors, engaged in games we made ourselves, a long time before the advent of gaming consoles. We made macramé bracelets for our friends and wrote each other postcards.
We couldn’t coordinate meetups with friends by text, chat or Whatsapp. We had to pick up the receiver, call their house, introduce ourselves to their parents and persuade them to hand us to our friend. This sometime felt like dodging obstacles in Mario Land’s boss fights.
– Marleen Stollen and Gisela Wolf, The Independent.
I wouldn’t put too much stock in generational recipes; but there are some funny truisms:
- You remember the screech of dial-up modems.
- You actually owned or used a word processor, typewriter, Walkman, MiniDisc, or Nokia 3310 un-ironically.
- Crappy teen soaps all about fringes, rock music, teen pregnancy and the perils of drugs.
- Mortal Combat, Mario, Sonic, Snakes, Streetfighter and Doom are all personally significant events in your life.
Apparently we’ve been called “The Lucky Generation” because ‘we’re not so broody as GenX’ + (special character bonus:) we also got to have our embarrassing teen years not owned for digital eternity by Facebook, etcetera. Although ‘Xennalism’ does have it’s downsides: we might be the most economically messed up, thanks to the introduction of Student Loans, and then the almighty Global Banking Implosion. Yay, go team*.
We didn’t have a childhood state of constant war (a’la Afghanistan for the millennial) but instead, many of us had their ‘political awakening’ in their late teens/early twenties through 9/11, the War on Terror, Iraq II, Guantanamo and so on.
All that being said, I’ve long since grown tired of generational ad-speak. Most of the time it seems like a way to soft-target history, repackage it and sell your childhood back at you. Born before 1980? 1985? 1990? Then this is what your life is, and oh by-the-way, did you want to click on What the Stars of My So Called Life Look Like Now? Maybe the most notable features of being born into the modern world is the omnipresence of cultural marketing. You are not you, you are brand choices. You are a Sub-Pop/Time Warner imprint with just enough income to pay off the app subscription fees.
[Or then again, maybe some days I’m just leaning-in to that nihilistic GenXer side of my social DNA…]
It is this aversion to all things gen-speak that drove me away from reading Doug Coupland for a long time – which is a shame because it was never his fault, and he’s a fantastic writer – but anyway. I’ve decided to finally pick up that copy of Generation A and give it a whirl, and was immediately rewarded with one of those Coupland quotes which can only ever be a Coupland quote.
Corn is a fucking nightmare. A thousand years ago it was a stem of grass with one scuzzy little kernel; now it’s a bloated, foot-long, buttery carb dildo.
Welcome back, Doug.
If, like me, you have always wondered just where on the generational divide you fall – then consider the words of Ed Jefferson writing in the New Statesman about our micro-generation: not the Xennials then, but the Orwellials.
…xennial isn’t the only one of these “new micro-generations” – earlier this year PR firm Ketchum gave us the “GenZennial”, covering the crossover point between millennials and the up-and-coming Generation Z. I expect they love apps, memes, and maybe swiping?
So am I just part of an as yet undiscovered micro-micro-generation of people born in 1984? A mixennial? A xemillial? An Orwellial? Given the vast quantity of information online advertisers now collect on us, maybe this generational “fracturing” will continue, until we’re all left alone in our own one-person generations, intimately conversing with brands who know our moods, whims, and exactly how much time we spend on the toilet to eight decimal places.
– Ed Jefferson, in New Statesman
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* Although, I think that all bets might be off after the crazy alternate-timeline takeover of 2017 onwards. Who knows what the kids born to a post-Brexit, isolationist-West will be facing.