I straddle the year between what it means to be a Millennial and someone in Gen Z. This (obviously) means I am narcissistic, impatient, naïve and directionless. I live with my head in the clouds and have the attention span of a goldfish. My big dreams are just that — foggy ideas with no work ethic to back it up. Oh, and because of the amount of technology I depend on, I’m a cyborg. My brain is nothing but a conduit of hashtags, memes and Instagram stories.
In the typical day as a cyborg, I begin by waking up at 6:30 a.m. to go to university. I live at home, and commute 1.5 hours using three modes of transportation because I can’t afford to live on my own. I read a newspaper article about avocado toast on the train, and why Millennials can’t move out because of it. After finishing class, I commute to work where I’m pushed all the social media marketing because I know how to “do all the internet things”. I don’t. I work until 9 p.m. in an attempt to graduate debt free and pay my own way through school. I dream of owning a detached single-family home one day. But it’s more of a pipe dream. Upon commuting home, I overhear an older couple complain how kids are turning their brains into mush via technology, as they swipe through Facebook and Candy Crush themselves. I’m finally in bed at 11:30 p.m. to recharge my batteries, lubricate my gears and tackle the next day.
My “cyborg brain” short-circuits at the preposterousness of a “generational identity.” How can we jump so quickly at the chance to confine a person into a narrow set of ideals, based only on their birthdate? It’s a buzzword of market analysts and internet chat room experts alike. And the problem is, most people like identifying with their generation. It’s a common mask we use to connect with peers and make excuses for our behaviour.
If you’re born between 1946 and 1964, you’re a Baby Boomer. You’re a hard-working cynic; a workaholic who values safety, rigidity, and status above all else. You’re grumpy and boring.
Born between 1965 and 1976? You’re Gen X. You’re the lost generation; jaded skeptics thriving off independence, flexibility, and recognition. Your catchphrase is “What’s in it for me?” You’re a sociopath.
You are considered a Millennial/Gen Y with a birthdate between 1977 and 1995. You’re by far the most controversial gen, because you’re coming of age to run the world. You thrive off technology, flexibility, and instant gratification. You’re entitled, narcissistic and naive. You’re a bum.
Are you born after 1996? You are Gen Z, or the “iGen” — motivated by social rewards, constant feedback, and a search for meaningfulness. You need structure and directions to thrive yet demand flexibility. A life without wifi for you is a life not worth living. You’re a cyborg.
Dear reader, do any of these fully describe you?
We identify with these generations so effortlessly. The generational identity concept, or the “gens”, are nothing but flimsy walls made bulletproof by our useless tirade of one gen against another. We ask, “What are you?” instead of, “Who are you?” In the end, we all say the same thing: Our gen is better than the next, and the previous gen had it easier.
Here’s why that’s wrong. This article proves that parents spend just as much time, if not more, in front of a screen at an average of nine hours per day. The cost of living, especially in Vancouver, has skyrocketed ahead of a living wage. Today, workers between 17 and 24 earn 10 per cent less than in 1981. Paul Kershaw, a population and public health professor at UBC, agrees that “housing prices have risen much more dramatically (than wages),” while arguing that young people can’t move away like previous generations could because the best opportunities are concentrated in the city core. Not to mention Canadian tuition, according to this post, has tripled between 1993 and 2016 and is projected to continue rising for the next four years. Government funding for university operations decreased from 77 per cent to 55 per cent, while student tuition supplementation increased from 20 per cent to over 37 per cent.
Still think the kids have it easier?
The next generation looks to the previous one for example and advice. When did it become okay to destroy this tentative and vulnerable relationship, that would strengthen both gens? In the light of the election, why do I hear that youth are apathetic and uninvolved in politics, when we are constantly berated by those telling us we can’t make a difference? Why limit a gen to the tiny cage of untapped potential by telling them what they can or cannot do? In turn, the youth lose trust in the older generation, turning the relationship into a toxic competition.
My hope for you is that you make three new friends outside of your generation. That you catch yourself stereotyping a gen and reword your thinking. That you intentionally teach a new skill to someone outside your age cohort with compassion, instead of smugness.
Imagine if we redirected all the energy spent on stereotyping into supporting intergenerational strengths and weaknesses.
Imagine a world where those born before 1964 can use iPads, and those born after 1997 can enjoy reading a regular book.
But wait! We already live in this world.
It’s time to let go.
Darielle Lim is in the last year of her molecular biology and biochemistry degree at Simon Fraser University. She is participating in the Semester in Dialogue program, working exclusively with other students to impact Vancouver through collaborative projects supported by the city.
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