Recently the concept of generation gaps has been going around in my mind. It seems like there are clear cut differences between each generation, but it is not to say that each person should be defined by that generation's typical traits. There are plenty of ways to tell if a person within that generation are typical to those traits, but I believe it's unsafe to assume those things about a person solely because of their age.
Upbringing has a lot to do with how we treat the world, and the opportunities each generation is given are vastly different. Economic status, political climate, social fads and cultural climate all play a massive role in how each generation is shaped. Take for example Generation X. They were brought up during one of America's greatest economic booms: The age of computer technology emerging as a house hold commodity. This created a great climate for career advancement and caused sectors beyond computer engineering to boom as well.
Since a college education was great, but not necessary at the time with the job climate, many benefited from this prosperous climate and established great careers with little to no debt incurred in order to achieve their goals. It's not to say they didn't have their hardships. Early parenthood and marriage were commonplace due to the social climate as well as economic climate, which allowed for these things to be achieved earlier on in life.
For many this early responsibility came at a cost: an existential crisis that made them wonder how much life experienced they had lost due to such early responsibility. This isn't across the board, but many generation Xers saw themselves wondering what else they could have made of their lives beyond the standard White Picket fences they now remained seemingly trapped behind.
Generation Y, or Millennials have a different set of problems. We have grown up in an age where technology is vastly integrated with our every day lives. Knowledge is a free-flowing entity and provides us with greater opportunity for exploration of our world without ever needing to leave our local coffee shop.
Entertainment is more wide spread, and the artists of our generation have benefited greatly from social media and companies like Amazon and Google giving us free tools to market and distribute our works. Online colleges and universities have given us the opportunity to expand our knowledge base as a whole and create a greater climate for prosperity around us.
However, despite all these advances, we live in a time of vast opportunity, so long as we are given it by someone else. Our job climate is no longer about credentials alone, considering how many are leaving college with a good degree that are still finding it difficult to find good jobs, it's hardly an easy life despite technological integration. The debt we incur to get these degrees is astronomical, but seen as a necessary investment towards our futures.
Jobs are very rarely turning into careers for many, and retirement seems more and more a distant dream to us with the increasingly poor political and economic climate. Our hardships are astronomical, and weigh heavily and many of us Millennials. We understand that our lives are far more difficult than they should be due to poor politics and the closed-mindedness of previous generations.
On the same note, Scott Hess makes a very good point. Generations having a distaste for their predecessors is nothing new. In fact, it's always difficult for humans to look upon those who are younger and more energetic than ourselves and not be jealous. It's part of who we are as humans, and also stems from a natural fear of death. It truly is rooted in envy and jealousy of their increased opportunity.
Yet for some reason, instead of embracing their increased opportunity and being happy that the fruits of all of our labors are making for a better world for our offspring, we instead as a culture choose to belittle and shun them for their downfalls.
It's important to remember that as a whole many generations have done this, and it's still a fairly new problem. With the age of technology and widespread information, everyone is more aware of how good others have it compared to ourselves. In fact, we have a tendency to judge others based on our own situations naturally, so what would our natural reaction be to someone who has it better than us?
It's the other side of the coin as the idea that we always feel better about ourselves when seeing someone whose situation is poorer than our own. Are we not envious of those who have it better? Of course we are! So while there's no way to say whether this envy is bad or good as a whole, it is safe to say that we shouldn't be acting upon this envy in the way we do. It is instead more important to keep an open mind, and understand all of the problems others around us face.
As a millennial, I try to understand the problems Generation X, and even the Baby Boomers have faced in the past, and still face to this day. This is why I pay attention to the political climate around me, and seek to understand the whole story instead of just the information that is fed to me. It's why I constantly ask questions, and seek as many answers as possible.
So I think it's safe to say, that despite our differences, each generation is not that different from each other at it's core. We're just given different opportunities, and those same opportunities yield different results because of an overwhelming amount of factors. Next time you think "Mom and Dad have no idea what it's like to live in this day and age." Remember that they're probably saying the same thing about you. Just as they said about their parents, and their parents said about them.
We'll never know another person's hardships, unless we face similar ones ourselves. And Generation X and Y have shared vastly different problems over the course of their lives.