I am Gen Zer 1,700,000*
*Approximately. And, okay, that isn’t an impressive stat, but I can’t help that I’m a summer baby. After going down some deep rabbit holes on Google – and getting pulled into reading up on some conspiracy theories – I learned that no matter when I was born in 1997, I am still smack dab within a group of the first people born into what many speculated may be the last generation – Generation Z – in this country. I warned you I read some conspiracy theories. But seriously, why did we start the “Generation” letters at X?
Conspiracy theories aside, I did learn that generations aren’t ever officially named. We just wait until a name tossed out by an historian or someone with some popular clout is culturally accepted into our lexicon. For example, journalist Tom Brokaw is said to have coined the name for The Greatest Generation in his popular book of the same name, written in 1998, long after said generation made history (1901-1927).
As PR and marketing professionals, we often find ourselves trying to narrow down to which audience it makes sense for us to market. Sometimes we talk about gender, sometimes geographic location, but almost always generation comes in to play. What makes me such a different consumer than someone six months older than me?
Let’s face the facts: Gen Zers were the first generation to be born into a world of technology. Smartphones, social media, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and so much more. I recently made the mistake of watching “The Social Dilemma” with my parents, and had fingers pointed at me for weeks following every time I picked up my phone to take a Snap or send a meme. Yes, we can probably all admit that I use my phone more than my parents and siblings, but do I have a problem?
When I find myself reflecting on my Gen Z status and my interaction with technology, I think back to Christmas Day 2012 – the day I received my first iPhone. Oddly enough, even though I was only 15, my millennial 20 and 24-year-old sisters also got their very first iPhone that day. That’s it! That is one day I can pinpoint that contributes to how I am different from them, and then, and only in that moment can I admit to maybe being a true Gen Zer. I have had five additional years with smartphones in my life, and their increasing ability to insert themselves into every aspect. While I am tracking my spending, sleep, exercise, food and friends’ locations, my Baby Boomer parents (who also got their first iPhones 12/25/12) are still struggling to find the silence button. My favorite thing to do is hang around after my mom and I end a FaceTime, and yell a few minutes later to scare her. She still doesn’t know how to hang up properly.
Other than those additional five years familiarizing myself with the iPhone, I like to think my ideals and behaviors line up with my millennial older sisters and brother. I feel lucky enough to understand the millennial references to fighting over the desktop computer to play “The Sims” or waiting around to hear that ding that your crush just became available on AIM (that’s AOL Instant Messenger). Maybe it is because I was the youngest of four and I was just forced to follow by their rules and grow up the way that my parents had raised them, but they of course wouldn’t say that about my upbringing. Is this my own version of an identity crisis? Can we implement a buffer zone in which if you are on the edge of two generations you can pick which one you feel you best fit into?
So readers, whether you are a Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, Gen Z (whether you feel like it or not) let’s raise a glass to the coolest named generation there is, babies born from 2013 to 2025, Generation Alpha. We all know that name will cease to exist when some novelist or historian throws a new suggested name out and something finally sticks. Any suggestions?