Whether it’s out of hatred of avocado toast, love for Applebee’s and/or diamonds, or a lack of emotional connection to the works of J.K. Rowling, some of us on the older end of the divide (this writer was born in 1983) have never felt truly at home with the “millennial” label. The generation baby boomers love to label as lazy, entitled, and self-centered—even though that’s at least partially their fault, given that they raised us—is ill-defined compared to the boomers, who the U.S. Census Bureau define as those born between 1946 and 1964. Millennials, meanwhile, begin as early as 1977 or as late as 1983, depending on who you ask. The idea of a sub-generation, sometimes referred to as the “Oregon Trail Generation” or “Generation Catalano,” has been echoing across the internet for a few years, and has now re-emerged three years after the term was first coined under its catchiest name yet: Xennials.
University of Melbourne Associate Professor of Sociology Dan Woodman—who, probably not coincidentally, was born in 1980—says the “Xennial” label applies to those born between 1977 and 1983. It’s a unique demographic group, he argues, because Xennials spent a significant chunk of their childhoods without access to computers—and indeed, will someday be among the last people on Earth to remember a time before the internet—but experienced the internet revolution early enough to still become early adopters of new technologies. People who were actually college aged when Facebook came out, in other words.
“You have a childhood, youth, and adolescence free of having to worry about social media posts and mobile phones. It was a time when we had to organize to catch up with our friends on the weekends using the landline,” Woodman recalls, presumably more than a little wistfully, on the Australian lifestyle site Mamamia. “Then we hit this technology revolution before we were maybe in that frazzled period of our life with kids and no time to learn anything new.”
There will always be variations based on regional and economic variables, of course: Someone born into a wealthy family could have had a cell phone in the early ‘90s, for example, and someone from a less privileged background could have gone without the internet until the late ’00s. But, at the risk of being extremely reductive, here’s a handy metric: If you remember seeing the original Star Wars in the theater as a kid, you’re Gen X. If you were born during the theatrical release of the original Star Wars trilogy, you’re an Xennial. The fallow period between Return Of The Jedi and the special editions belongs to the millennials. And if your first introduction to the whole thing was The Phantom Menace? You have our condolences.
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