Feb 10, 2021 - Technology

Generational borders are always in flux

Kid staring at the TV

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

This whole generational conflict thing has gone too far.

The big picture: Pollsters and the media love to play up the differences between Gens Z and X, between millennials and Boomers, but generational borders are always in flux, and who you are has much more to do with where you are in life than who you happen to share birth years with.

What's happening: A piece this week in Canada's Walrus magazine made the case that TikTok is the new front for a generational war between Gen Z and the millennials.

  • This is dumb.
  • Not the story itself, which is a cogent exploration of the unique dynamics of TikTok, but the fact that Gen Z is apparently spending valuable seconds making fun of millennials for their love of Harry Potter.

Don't get me wrong: I love making fun of millennials as much as anyone else, especially if they insist on telling you their Hogwarts house. As a 42-year-old Gen Xer, I've been living in the shadow of that demographic Death Star for years.

Be smart: As Philip Bump noted in the Washington Post in 2015, generations are constantly being recalculated and renamed, which is why Gen X has also been known as "Grunge Kids," "13th Gen" and "20-Nothings."

  • That last one makes my point: What we think of as a fixed generational identity has more to do with where a group of people is in their journey through life.

Details: Gen Z is more progressive and quick to adopt technology? Well, have you ever met a teenager, like, ever?

The catch: Demographic makeup and changing technological options obviously do make a difference from generation to generation, which is why your grandma probably isn't stanning TikTok.

  • But seriously, check out "31 pictures of grandparents who were wildly hot when they were younger." They used to be totally cool, because generally speaking, younger people — not specific generations — are cool.

The bottom line: We all used to be young, and most of us will eventually be old. And that's the most essential generational fact there is.

Go deeper