Friday, February 9, 2018

A Tiny Generation of Dubious Distinction

"Caught between boomers and younger Millennials, Generation X is mainly known for being neglected and ignored." ["The Undetected Influence of Generation X," Anna Sofia Martin, Forbes, 9/13/2016.]

My generation (Gen-X) has grown up, come of age, and is now aging, in the shadow of two colossal generations: the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. 

We are like Pluto, orbiting the same star as planets that have moons that are bigger than we are. And they don't mind asking, (because who is going to tell them it's rude?): Is Pluto even a planet?

The Baby Boomers dominated my life, culturally speaking, from the moment I was born (though my parents were slightly too old to be Boomers) until their children, the Millennials, were old enough to take over--which they have done. 

The worlds that these colossal generations created seem, on the surface, different. But, at a deeper level, they're not really that different. The Baby Boomers were the "Me" generation; the Millennials are "Generation Me." [Check it on Wikipedia.]  

The self-exploration through music and drugs, therapy, sensory-deprivation tanks, and me-time of the Boomers has been culturally displaced by smart phones. 

And yes, the iPhone was invented by Steve Jobs, a Baby Boomer, but most of the apps are being developed and used by Millennials. 

I like various forms of naval gazing--obviously. And I like my smart phone. 

But when I read in my New York Times app today that "text" (as in content, not texting) will soon be replaced by audio, video, and memes, I thought, Now hold on right there! That is going too far! 

The article asks, How do you feel when your FB/Insta/Snapchat/Discord/LinkedIn app pings while you're reading an article? Can you resist the impulse to stop and check it?  If you try to ignore it, does it  beckon to you like a big hunk of cold chocolate cake?

That's as much of the article as I read. I had to go on FB to see whether anyone had reacted to anything since I'd last checked.  And I never, truthfully, finished the article. Which, I suppose, proves their point. 

Even though I hated what they were saying, that sustained reading of text is about to become a thing of the past, I took the bait hook, line, and sinker.

That's what it has been like, my whole life. I would like to think that I have a choice about whether or not to be swept up by the next generational wave, but I don't. 

I might choose to put down my smartphone and never pick it up again, (fat chance!), but what difference would it make, except to magnify my own obscurity and isolation?  

Everything changes. Language changes. Even if you think you're speaking the same language, you probably aren't. 

I updated my resume recently. (I'm using the word "updated" very loosely.) I subsequently discovered that the language I had used to describe my professional skills was hopelessly out of date, though I suspect the skills and aptitudes are the same (which shows what I know). 

For example,  instead of editorial development, project management, and copy writing, people now oversee content operations, manage workflow and content deliverables, and migrate authors from using Word templates to xml authoring tools.  Or words to that effect. 

The original language that I used would clearly indicate to a Millennial that I haven't worked in an actual office since 2003.  

"Tracked and managed updating of content for 700 topics a year." (I lifted that from someone's LinkedIn profile.)  

What does that mean?  If I post a picture of my cat on Facebook, does that count as updating content for one topic?  

Is there a fresh new word that youthfully describes the experiential continuity of a lifetime, to the tune of 52 years? Is there any awe-inspiring cool way to express that?

I didn't think so.

But that's gotta be worth something, right? 

I saw an article yesterday directed toward actual grownups who have never seen a 10% correction in the market before, because they've only had an IRA for like, five minutes. 

I remember the last correction very well.  It was the week after I rode sixty miles on a three-speed bike for a locally farmed veggies cooperative. I had a Guinness at a tavern a few miles from the finish line, and chatted up a cycling team comprised of financial analysts.  One of them predicted the imminent correction that would wipe out an entire year's profits, which in fact happened the very next day.  

But really, nobody values experience as much as they value a firm grasp of the latest occupational jargon and business-tech lingo.  

And sure, I could color my hair, cover up the gray, have a twenty-something modernize my resume, and learn how to speak young words.  But none of that would actually make me cool.

This is off-point, probably, but I look at Jane Fonda, who is now 80, and her jaw-line is firmer than mine. By the time I am 60 and she is 88, she will look twenty years younger than me. She will look younger than me when she has been dead for two weeks, I think.  

So, if you're a Millennial, or very wealthy like Jane Fonda, you are probably on top of the world, for now. Eventually, you do have to die, no matter how great you look.  

Eventually, no matter how multitudinous your generation, another one overtakes you, and all the popular trends that you created become obscure, or even ridiculous. 

But, history will treat you well, in deference to your great size and impact, as you shape your time as you please. 

And meanwhile, my generation, as ever like Pluto, an object of dubious distinction, will continue to orbit the sun.  Whatever we are, we are not a moon, circling a planet. 

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