Fynn: Generational lines exist to divide us

Fynn Bailey

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

It feels like everyday there is a new article about how Millennials ruined this or how Baby Boomers sabotaged that, often with Generation X seemingly watching and sobbing on the sidelines.

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Now that Millennials have aged into the middle generation spot, with Gen X being older and Baby Boomers becoming all but dead, Gen Z has risen to replace them as the “young and reckless” generation.

Already some parts of the media have begun sowing the seeds of conflict between the newest generation and the already war-weary Millennials.

This isn’t just a problem with the media. It starts with how generations are researched.

The social study of generations started thousands of years ago. Even Confucius pondered the differences of age groups. Although, the way he thought was far more based around social continuity than conflict.

One of the major ways generations are studied is by labeling them and watching how that divides them. Dr. Amanda Grenier is a professor at McMaster University specializing in social and critical gerontology.

“It is not where the divisions are drawn that is important,” Grenier said. “But how individuals and societies interpret the boundaries and how these divisions may shape the processes and outcomes.” 

It doesn’t matter where the divisions are drawn between generations, just that they are. There isn’t really a difference between Millennials and Gen Z, just that someone separated them.

With the appeal to tribalism made, people will always push to categorize themselves into their nicely named groups. In twenty years, when the line between the next two generations is strong, they’ll blame us, the older generation, for all the problems in the world.

This doesn’t have to be way we look at generations. There are other ways of thinking.

The popular way to look at generations is using the pulse-rate hypothesis. Basically, it claims that life has a pattern where about every twenty years things have gone one way, and a new generation is born that changes the direction.

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“It is not where the divisions are drawn that is important, but how individuals and societies interpret the boundaries and how these divisions may shape the processes and outcomes.” Dr. Amanda Grenier

The more practical way of looking at generations is the imprint hypothesis. It states that generations are formed around specific historical events that cause young people to see the world differently than their elders.

If looked at that way, not everybody of an age is even part of a generation. Only those who were directly changed by the event are in that generation. For example, 9/11 might have caused a generation shift in America, but it wouldn’t have in India.

Using this hypothesis in mass media will help shift the blame of societal problems off of particular generations to those who are responsible.

It’s not grandma’s fault that the 2008 recession happened, it’s the banks. It’s also not a thirty-year-old’s fault they can’t afford a house because of the after effects of that same recession.

All the while, more research should be focused on how said recession might have changed how people think. Research being done on why someone born in 1990 might have different opinions that someone born in 1998 is ignoring the fact that they might just be two different people.

Until this change in popular thought happens, people should try to stop being so angry at others just because they’re a little younger or older and didn’t watch the same movies growing up.

Generations were created to divide. Don’t let them.

Fynn Bailey can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @FynnBailey