Bandwagon starting: Join now
You've heard the stories, but I'll give you a sampling. Baby Boomers (and I am in this group) are the ones who are always going to "reinvent" things and who refuse to admit we might be getting older. (We are, by the way, those born from 1946 to 1964.)
Generation Xers (mid-'60s to early '80s) balance work and life better than we Boomers do, but they're also, it is claimed, worse at saving for retirement. Depending on the story you read, they struggle more with finances or they're become one of the most affluent age groups.
Generation Y/the Milennials (early '80s to early '00s, AKA my students) are tech-addicted (but also teaching their elders how to navigate tech). They feel entitled. They, like Gen X, balance work and life better than we Boomers.
By now, I hope you're rolling your eyes. Or starting a sentence like this: "Wait, not all (group) members I know are like that."
And you'd be right. Look at the dates I gave you -- each group is defined in steps covering 20 years. After reading too many generic "this generation is like this" stories, I'd like to argue that clumping people in 20-year groups and claiming that defines them is simplistic, stupid and (for media types) slothful.
(I'm not talking here about those "how do people entering college this year see things?" stories. I'd admit to being a bit tired of them -- they've become journalistic cliches -- but at least they're grouping people born in one year, not 20.)
Three Baby Boomer-era examples for your consideration: the Beatles arrival in America (1964), the Vietnam War (I'll pick the Tet offensive, 1968), Watergate (1972). Early Boomers would have been 14-18 in 1964, 18-22 in 1968 and 22-26 in 1972. Mid-Boomers would have been 8 to 11 in 1964, 12-15 in 1968 and 16-19 in 1972. Late Boomers would have been 0-3 in 1964, 4-7 in 1968 and 8-11 in 1972.
Can you really convince yourself that all three of those groups would have been affected by those events in the same way?
I'm not arguing that those events -- and other changes in society -- didn't have an impact on the people who lived through them. (Pick any three Generation X or Milennial events and try the same experiment.)
But that effect is, I'd argue, tempered by other factors. I'm a Boomer. But the way I see and approach the world is also influenced by at least these factors: I'm female and I grew up with parents who opened doors for me (not always true in that era). I was born and raised in the northeast (Pa. and NY). I grew up in small towns and continue to live in a small city. I went through high school in a public school. I'm college educated. I'm white. Any of those factors might make me sometimes more like a younger person in outlook or approach to something than I am like my peers by age.
We have enough things dividing us in 2013. It makes no sense to let lazy journalists and other commentators set up another division by creating "us against them" scenarios based on when we were born and what that supposedly means about who we are.