By Tyler Fisher in Posts about posts – April 6, 2022

Generations are bullshit. We are multitudes, and that's good.

Stop treating age groups like homogenous groups of people.

Person holding Pearl Jam's Ten on vinyl
Photo by Jurian Kersten on Unsplash

My favorite band was Pearl Jam. I grew up in a single-parent household. I smoked cloves in the parking lot of a Kohl's sitting on the trunk of my friend's Honda Civic. That's right, I'm Gen X a millennial.

I'm long on the record that we need to stop treating generational cohorts like homogenous groups of people. So it comes as no surprise that the recent viral thread about "mind hacks to use with Gen X" drove me up a wall. For example, the thread says that "poor grammar drives Gen X nuts" because "their teachers stressed correct writing." They still teach grammar in schools, I promise! Also, "stressed correct writing" is an awkward phrase, my dude. Consider using that edit button when it comes around.

It's true that historical events can have significant societal impacts on the people who live through them. The decline of religion over the past five American generations is a particularly salient example of how the preferences, lifestyles and values of a culture can change as time progresses. The study of these changes demands real rigor. It's fascinating stuff!

On a smaller level, living through a particular era will inevitably make you nostalgic for certain things, and you can bond with people of similar age over that nostalgia. Great. That's fine. It's cute that Gen Xers used cassettes. Sounds miserable to me, but go ahead, wax poetic.

The problem is when we ascribe individual personality traits to groups of tens of millions of people. A common theme about Gen X is that "Gen Xers are independent," and so we're told to give them space and let them work their own way. That probably works for some Gen Xers! There are other Gen Xers who like working in teams and emphasize collaboration.

Your level of independence and work style preferences have absolutely nothing to do with what year you were born. These are just personality traits. Humans are social creatures, and social groups always need different types of people to succeed. If everyone over a period of 18 years needed to work independently in order to succeed, we'd have huge problems getting anything done.

Even more problematic is how we flatten generational cohorts into stereotypes that are often based on the dominant culture of an era. In America, that's white culture, no matter what generation you're talking about. Contrasting how "Boomers/Millennials grew up in ages of abundance" with Gen X's economic underperformance is only possible in a white context. In doing this, we continue to erase the continual struggle of marginalized groups in this country and continue to drown out their stories.

We need to allow for the range of experiences that people bring to the table in all respects, including within generational cohorts.

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