Generation Gap

I’ve started reading a book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…And Rethinking Faith. My Dad and I are going to do a little blog back and forth on the topic in a few weeks, specifically we’ll be talkin’ ’bout my g-g-generation.

Or not.

This book is concerned with what is commonly known as “the millennials”, mostly people 18-29 (I’m 28). The book refers to this generation as the “mosaics” (1984-2004), a name which is meant to capture the wide variance in viewpoints and experience.

But I’ve never really felt like a millennial, and not just because I’m on the edge of the boundary. I’m not a gen X’er, but I feel I have more in common with people 10 years older than me than 10 years younger. Maybe a little bit of that is my current age and demographic, married guy/engineer/homeowner, but if I think about it I felt the same way even before I was any of those things.

I think there’s a split somewhere around 1997-98 or what I’ve called the “floppy” line*. The split has little to do with the floppy disk itself and more to do with the ubiquity of the internet and the always connected society. Take this quote from a recent popular post by a millennial:

“We live in a country in which you don’t exist until you’re online.” ~Source: Be Like Aslan

I work in the tech industry, in a business that supports the cloud, and that sentiment makes me shudder. I fully appreciate the fact that 99% of you would never have heard of me until I started this blog, and certainly my current vocation and avocation rely on the on-line world. But I was doing plenty of existing before sitting in front of a keyboard, or a phone or a tablet. So much of my life and my destiny were shaped by interpersonal connections in the real world (I met my wife in Bible study).

I am not a “netizen” by birthright, but children born in 1997-1998 were.

I’m not making an entitlement comment. It is the goal of parents to give their children a better world than the one in which they lived, and technological advances have always been a part of that. I just feel like I’m part of a generation that has grown up with technology, but has not been shaped by it in the same way as those 10-15 years our juniors. For me, technology is external, a tool for doing the things I want to do. It’s not a part of my life, or at least not a part of my perception of reality.

I’m living with technology, not through it.

What do you guys think? Is millennials or mosaics too broad of a catch-all term? Where would you draw the split?

*Technically I used floppy disks for classwork up until 2003 but they had been on the way out for years.


Filed under Faith + Life, Trube On Tech

9 responses to “Generation Gap

  1. Very interesting! The professor will be looking forward to hearing the views. Technology has taken a front row seat and indeed should not have; but what’s to prevent progression in a very progressive world? Not so bad if managed; but where is that? NOT!

  2. Chuck

    Labels can be useful tools for describing different groups of people, or things. But when we use these labels as a tool to perform other tasks – we risk having the label itself define the person, and can use the label to build a wall around them preventing person growth beyond this artificial definition.

    As a society we do this all the time: white, black, gentile, infidel, Canadian …

    As individuals, we grow and experience this dynamic world in our own unique way – building a personality based not only on the world as we experience it, but mainly based on the decision branches we choose to follow.

    Like me I know you are more (and less) than the label society sometimes places on you. The fun is getting to know the individual outside the label.
    I have no idea what is was about your blog that brought this out of me – but there you are. And here I am. (It’s early)

  3. Ben, great first post on our co-blogging venture. It is interesting that categories like “millenial” or “mosaic” do not adequately capture the individuality of each of us, as Chuck writes. I also wonder whether such categories to distinguish generations also accentuate generational differences and minimize the commonalities of human experience across the generations.

    On the matter of the place of the virtual in our identities, the thing that troubles me about accentuating this is that it denies how much of our lived experience is not in the virtual world, and where there is much commonality–eating, drinking, travel from place to place (yeah, you can do that virtually but what a difference), work around the place we live, loving those we are with and so much more.

    At the same time, the difference you observe is real–I’m still caught by surprise in a discussion where we wonder about something and have a question and someone looks it up on their phone or tablet. I don’t do this instinctively (nor so many other things that one can do online). What does strike me is so different about “netizens” is that one is less a person of a particular place as a person shaped by all places and no place in particular. The self is shaped in a kind of “online boutique” where we pick and choose from a melange of different things as opposed to the values of the neighborhood, community, and faith community in which one is raised.

    I’ll stop here–this last might be the core of my first post on this so perhaps i shouldn’t say more!

  4. Born in 1970, I’m solidly among the Gen-Xers. I feel attracted to the generations on both sides of me (Boomers and Millenials) for different reasons. Being in the middle, both of my neighbors make sense. It’s hard for me to describe myself/my generation because of that. I suppose I am whatever they are not. It reminds me of the way to understand a Hindu Brahman: by pointing at all the things one sees and saying “not this, not this.”

    I do feel like we are the generation that introduced the first versions of much of today’s technology, then used it, improved it, and revolutionized it…then handed it to the Millenials. And they are doing things with technology that are beyond me. So there is a part of me that is proud to have helped all this amazingness to happen.

    My 16-year-old daughter lives and breathes as a netizen (LOVE that word!), and isn’t conscious that it’s a choice. So, I can copy what she’s doing — like when the only way to get her to communicate with me is Skype IMing, and I find out what she’s excited about by visiting her deviantART page, and her primary form of entertainment is Vines or reading Homestuck — I can go all these “places” and join her, but I just can’t see it from her perspective. I still can’t break away from thinking that the screen is an interruption of life. I haven’t asked her, but I’m certain she believes that her screens are as much an integral part of her day as ballet practice, pre-calc, sleepovers, and chores.

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