To my Gen Z teenager, I'll always be a Boomer

While editing Lisa Seplak's column (facing page) and checking whether "Gen Zers" requires any punctuation (it does not), I stumbled upon some interesting facts about Generation Z.

They are more racially and ethnically diverse than any other generation and on track to be the most well-educated generation yet, according to the Pew Research Center. Gen Zers are more likely to have a college-educated parent than previous generations. Most Gen Zers live with married parents and, in most families, both work. Gen Zers are more likely than older generations to say they know someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns.

They are less likely to be working than previous generations when they were teens and young adults - 18 percent of Gen Z teens ages 15-17 were employed in 2018, compared 41 percent of Gen Xers in 1986. Perhaps this is why 89 percent said they are online several times a day to almost constantly, using YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

They have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smart phones.

If, like me, you are thinking, "Yes, yes, that's all fascinating. But who are they?" I can help.

Gen Zers were born between 1997 and 2012, which makes them 10-25 years old. They are, most often, the children of Gen Xers (who, in case you're wondering, were born between 1965 and 1980).

They are, I realized as I read, my daughter Ainsley.

She was born in 2009. She has no memory of the world before smart phones. She lives with married parents who both work. She knows people who go by gender-neutral pronouns. And she is online somewhere between several times a day and almost constantly, leaning toward the latter. And her parents are both Gen Xers. As much as I find that label ridiculous, her father and I both were born in the first two years of the 15-year span.

Of course I'm not a Boomer, either - although Ainsley jumped on the "Boomer" insult bandwagon a couple of years ago when she thought I was doing something particularly momish.

Boomers, according to the best available information on the Internet, are optimistic, hard-working, often divorced, more conservative than younger adults (but maybe not as conservative as you think) and super-competitive.

Gen Xers are expert DIY-ers who are very interested in work-life balance but not in fashion. They are tech-savvy but not tech dependent and fiercely independent.

We have three Boomers (born 1946-64) and three Gen Xers working in our office.

I'd say all of us possess traits from both generations. We are generally optimistic, hardworking and somewhat tech savvy - unless something goes wrong. We all have spouses, with marriages ranging from 11 to 40 years. We are competitive and independent, the degree to which depends on the person.

We are not unique, according to an article I read in The Atlantic that indicates the dividing lines between different "generations" seem to be blurring, even though they keep naming new ones (Generation Alpha, 2013-2025).

"Those delineations keep coming even as, because of a variety of demographic factors, they seem to be getting less and less meaningful as a way of segmenting the population," it stated.

The article goes on to say that the average age at which young people do typically "adult" things like getting married and having kids has risen.

"The life course isn't as synchronized as it once was, where everyone does stuff at the same time," Dan Woodman, a sociology professor at the University of Melbourne, is quoted as saying in the article.

At The Hinsdalean, we find several questions generate more telling answers than "When were you born?"

Like, did you ever have a mullet?

Did your parents ever ask you to get up to change the TV channel?

Did you ever wear blue eyeshadow?

Did you have a phone attached to your wall?

Another good indicator came up this week while I was interviewing Millennial Dan Applebaum for a story on The Herd lacrosse. We got talking about life before smart phones. When he was a kid, he told me, they used to have to play games on their calculators.

When I was a kid, I told him, we used to play games on paper.

I could swear I heard Ainsley say it.


- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean