Lately, after reading online that 1995 is the cut off year for being a Millennial – something I’ve always described myself as – I’ve been questioning my identity. In American Horror Story, Madison Montgomery describes Millennials as “born between the birth of AIDS and 9/11, give or take”, which I always took as gospel. Various internet sources state that the cut off date is between 1995 and 1996, placing me right on the cusp – which nicely encapsulates how I feel. I relate to most Millennials but find some of the older Millennials’ views a little dated, and feel more enveloped with social media in comparison to Millennials a decade older than me. On the other hand, I align politically with Gen-Z but I don’t have TikTok, I’m not terrified of picking up the phone, and when I googled “cheugy” it sounded a lot like everything I love. So, in the typical narcissist fashion of a Millennial, I’ve been questioning: which generation am I?
Millennials: the first generation to log on
The internet is without a doubt the biggest divider between these two generations. While Boomers and Gen-Y were fully fledged adults who had to learn digital skills, Millennials and Gen-Z have grown up with the internet. But that doesn’t mean our experiences are identical. I can just about remember a time before the internet existed, but barely. Meanwhile, my Millennial boyfriend (born in 1988) grew up without the internet until he was a teenager. While he spent evenings as a preteen playing football outside, I was lucky enough to have the internet in my home and even in my room (until my parents found out how much time I was spending on MSN and Bebo). I remember Happy Tree Friends, Habbo Hotel, Omegle, and all kinds of 00s inappropriate websites that would have been immediately cancelled if they surfaced nowadays.
Gen-Z: the first generation to never log off
Gen-Z have a much different relationship with the internet as the first generation to be constantly surrounded by it. My sister – a peak Gen-Z born in 2000 – has never lived in a house without it, doesn’t remember the dial up connection, and has never had to “turn off” the internet because my mum wanted to make a phone call. This has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of social media. While it was on my agenda as a teenager (MSN, Bebo, Facebook), we didn’t have smartphones that could host it. When I turned off the family computer, my experience with the internet and social media was finished for the day. If I was ever getting online hate or embroiled in a bitter Facebook chat with someone, it would end the moment I turned off the computer and I wouldn’t see it again until the next day, when I got back from school. For Gen-Z, due to the rapid surge in smartphone technology that coincided with their teenage years, not only the internet been a constant, but laptops and mobile phones mean they’ve always been connected to it. BRB and G2G didn’t exist for Gen-Z: they’ve always been plugged in and never logged off.
Millennials: doing it for the Gram…
I strongly believe that Instagram was the catalyst that pushed social media from a prototype for behaviour control into something that altered how people acted, and Millennials were the guinea pigs. I know that sounds like I’m a conspiracy theorist, but don’t group me in with the ‘Plandemic tinfoil hat wearers’: watch The Social Dilemma and you’ll see for yourself. For Millennials, this is the first social platform that really changed them. “Do it for the gram” has become a phrase so commonplace it’s been featured in songs, said more times at a pre-drinks than the phrase “is anyone taking a coat?”, and has been parodied constantly (probably by Gen-Z who think it’s cheugy). Instagram has given Millennials a complex about being perfect, and for Gen-Z who grew up with it during high school, it’s become so fake that it’s been replaced with something else…
TikTok on the clock…
If you sang “but the party don’t stop, no” in response to that subheading, chances are you’re a Millennial. But for Gen-Z, TikTok isn’t a Ke$ha song but the social platform of choice. I don’t have TikTok, but from the clips that make it onto other platforms all I see is a mix of recipes, dance routines and people mouthing along to song lyrics. I don’t understand why people would want to film themselves lip syncing to a song while playing with their hair – it’s the kind of behaviour that would have resulted in cyber bullying if Millennials ever dared take part. But, Gen-Z can be forgiven for indulging in this cringe behaviour because Millennials had something far, far more embarrazzing: those Snapchat dog filters.
A generation of #BeKind
Are Gen-Z nicer? For my market research*, I asked my resident Gen-Z (my sister) and she said bullying over certain topics such as image and sexual orientation barely happened in her school by the time they reached year 9. This is mind-blowing for me, considering I went to the same school four years earlier and this type of behaviour was rife. Body shaming at secondary school was the norm, and I hope that Gen-Z draws the line with this. If I’d been to school a decade later, would I have responded to comments on my nose/hair/teeth/lack of boobs by saying “I’d like to remind you to respect my boundaries”, or tried to have them cancelled rather than telling them to fuck off? Would I reply with #BeKind rather than retaliating? Surely, the Gen-Z response is better than calling them a prick and then crying in the toilets at break time. My school experience was far from what she described, indicating that in the short time between our school years, attitudes are changing.
* = not representative of the Gen-Z population as a whole, obviously
Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the wokest of them all?
I cannot stand the word “woke” because it’s been used as a divisive term to describe anything that right-wing people disagree with, from vegan sausage rolls to not being racist. Millennials are the first generation to be described as woke, both in negative and positive ways. As a generation Millennials are more socially aware than their predecessors, but Gen-Z put it into practise. If Millennials introduced “woke values”, Gen-Z is the first generation to grow up with them as the norm. I’m not saying we’ll all hold hands and sing ‘Kum Ba Yah‘, but it seems both generations are making steady progress towards a world where equality is valued. As for which is woker… you’ll have to ask the Daily Mail.
Identity crisis averted?
Ultimately, generations don’t just end with one year, and it’s likely anyone born between 1994 and 1999 will feel overlap from one side to the other. I feel comfortable in the fact I will continue to describe myself as a Millennial because really: who cares? However, for a real deciding factor to determine whether you’re a Millennial or Gen-Z, it all comes down to avocados. Millennials popularised avos with their brunch obsession that will prevent them from getting on the property ladder. A true Millennial will always favour an avocado brunch and likely ‘Gram a picture of it – with a poached egg getting popped for the not-vegans. Gen-Z, on the other hand will be concerned with the avocado’s impact on the environment and likely ditch them in favour of a plant-based pea alternative they found on TikTok. Apparently, Billie Eilish swears by it.