It’s a wild thing, the battle of the generations. One generation lived through hippies, The Beatles, World Wars, Woodstock, and Elvis. Another is being raised to live through The Jonas Brothers, the existence of TikTok, the fall of Twitter, Swifties, and so much more. Then there’s the generation in between. Us. The nerds. The gamers. The people who remember 9/11 and roll their eyes at those learning about it in textbooks.
But what do the Boomers and the Gen Z’ers have in common? It’s an answer so glaring you’ll kick yourself when I tell you. (maybe, probably not). You’ll have to stick with me til the end to discover the answer. The Boomers didn’t have the internet or cell phones until much later in life. The Gen Z’ers are being raised with both the internet and cell phones. The millennials transcend all of time and space as we know it and know a time before they existed and after they existed. But what does this mean? (cue Danny Elfman).
For starters, the constant availability and screen exposure affects our learning. There are a million and a half studies (like the ones mentioned in this article or this blog post) about how phones, screens, blue lights, and Wi-Fi are killing our brain cells. Adorn your tin foil hat and enjoy trying to live without one of these things.
However, we take for granted that children nowadays can actually learn from these phones and screens. As the Boomers scoff in judgment, toddlers are learning numbers, colors, and letters, and middle schoolers are learning awkward dance moves for all the world to see.
On the downside, because #balance, it affects our ability to pay attention in school and has brought a challenge to teachers (since they obviously needed a new challenge). They need to determine their teaching style when dealing with ridding their classrooms of distractions outside of those already present in the room. Instead of passing notes, it’s sending texts and spreading gossip. Yay, middle school.
Before cell phones and the internet took off, reality TV was destroying our brains. Before that, MTV actually played music videos (*gasp*) and exposed our young brains to *wait for it* dancing provocatively. I’m not talking WAP and twerk. I’m talking about the Electric Slide, the Macarena, and the Running Man. You heard me. Before everyone whipped a camera out to record every interaction and your child could feel the wrath of the center of the Earth, we dared each other to lick the gum on the bottom of a school desk. (Just me? Can you imagine if there were cameras on the school bus? Eek)
Depending on your age, think back to when you were looking through the JC Penny’s Christmas catalog (linked in case you youngsters have no idea what that is). Did you dog-ear the page or did you circle items? Did your parents give you a limit on what you could ask for? I hope most of the answers are yes, which then leads me to the difficulties millennial parents have parenting over Gen Z. These heroes of parents remember dog-earring the next cool Scooby-Doo comforter or Lisa Frank folder, or even wanting the next One-Eyed Willie (heh) toy to compete with the next-door neighbor Mr. Potato-Head and Stretch Armstrong toys.
Now, however, have to deal with their Gen Z children competing with influencers. This head-shaking and completely baffling idea of a career choice (can you see which age range I fit into yet?) has to have the next cool best thing that Sara on YouTube and TikTok has that will be cool for a week. And, naturally, they’re the cost of about 26 Lite Brite’s.
The other aspect of how it affects millennials is in our relationships. We’re in the in-between…pretty much as scary as the Upside Down. We know the benefits of not having these handheld distractions and the quality face-to-face conversation can have, but we also see how it can bring more of us together in the world. It’s okay to sit on the couch and pass memes back and forth like Gen Z’ers, but what happened to talking like the Boomers? In the world of mental health we live in today, we millennials are trying to get by with the stress and anxiety we’ve accepted but weren’t raised with. We walked uphill both ways to school in the snow, even if you grew up in Miami. We were out until the streetlights came on. Now, we set timers for our kids’ phones so these smartphones don’t make them dumb. Is this what the advancement of technology is?
To bring it all together, this is just another millennial saying we have it harder than the previous generation, and the current generation will never understand. For the Boomers, it was TV (MTV Cribs and TRL for the WIN bay bay) and how video games will destroy our brains. For Gen Z’ers, will it (finally) be flying cars? Will it be the mirrors that cheer you on while you exercise? (ugh)
All in all, we can all be glad of the unique aspects our generations bring to the world, but don’t underestimate the pressure we millennials feel from the old brains of people past and the new brains of the future. Like an exhausting game of tug of war between what life was like before and what life is like after. We had boyfriends and girlfriends playing Kick the Bucket; now we have Bumble and Plenty of Fish at our fingertips as a virtual Kick the Bucket. Shit’s wild.
What do you think the next technology will be to cause us to eye roll? Let us know!