Millennial, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, Baby Boomer – in 2021 every generation has a defining label, and a set of stereotypes to live up to or rebel against. But does every generation fit into a specific label? I think not. I’m an ‘almost Millennial, but not quite a Gen Zer’, so where on earth does that leave me? I’m old enough to remember blue toothing songs from my Sony Ericsson to my friends in the playground, but not old enough to remember The Spice Girls craze.
From the avocado obsession to the snowflake debacle, conflicting political views and a passion for activism – there are a million and one differences between these two generations. And it can be incredibly hard to navigate life when you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do, think and feel. On one hand you have people a couple of years younger than you telling you in TikTok videos that your hair shouldn’t be parted at the side, or you use emojis wrong – this makes you feel like a Millennial. But on the other hand you have friends a couple of years older talking about Bebo pages and Gameboys – this makes you feel like a Gen Zer.
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The term ‘Zillennial’ is a word used to describe people who were born three years before the end of the Millennial generation or three years into Gen-Z. So basically, if you were born between 1993 and 1998 – you can officially use this label with pride.
While scrolling Instagram reels, I came across this video that highlighted the debacle that us ‘almost Millennials’ have. It got me thinking about the generational divide and how we (people born between 93 and 98) are bridging the gap.
Next month I’ll be 24, I was born in 1997 and I’ve never known how to truly label myself. I remember My Parents Are Aliens, Tamagotchis, Tammy Girl, Nintendo DS Lites, Jane Norman bags, scoobies, Woolworths and Dream Phone – but my friends who are a few years younger don’t. I’m not alone. Kelly Smith*, a doctoral student from Leicester born in 1998, would class herself as a Gen Z as she can only really remember “things from 2005 onwards,” although thinks that the term ‘Zillennial’ is better suited because she can remember a lot of ‘Millennial’ stereotypes. “I remember those weird rubber/slime aliens that gave birth, Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven, MSN, Maybelline Dream mousse and sweep fringes”.
At school I was the eldest in my year, missing the year above by a matter of days, this meant that for me it could be tricky when chatting with friends. It was harder to bond, especially when I was watching old episodes of Tracy Beaker and they were hooked on The Return of Tracy Beaker. Or when I wanted to take a Jane Norman bag into school because it was hip, but they thought Hollister bags were ‘hipper’. And then there was the time where I had a Nintendo DS Lite but they were getting the Nintendo 3DS XL.
Generational labelling is confusing and many people agree. Marketing executive Melo Ruswa from Hampshire, who was born in 1996 falls directly on the cusp, and identifies more with Gen Z, but she is in fact closer to the millennial age. One of her Millennial memories however was “running home to log into MSN so you could speak to classmates you JUST spent all day with was the height of social excellence”.
Attention hair owners, Gen Z have #cancelled side partings
She feels it’s “weird” to fall between the generational labels: “Being a ‘Zillennial’ is strange because the spectrum is so wide. On one side I have friends that have children, are married and at the top of the career ladder. On the other there are people that are okay with the fact they are still figuring out what’s right for them. So balancing both of those desires for the kids, marriage and a successful career but also making sure I live a life that fits with MY values can be complicated”.
Living a life that fits with your values is a trait that is very in keeping with the characteristics of a Gen Zer – after all, this generation is definitely known for its activism and inclusive tendencies – something that Millennials are perhaps more likely to shy away from.
The differences between Gen Zers and Millennials doesn’t just end at pop culture and fashion sense – these generational differences cover just about every aspect of life from politics to spending habits. Millennials are dubbed as ‘lazy’ by the media, with them often being told to stop buying avocados in order to save for a house. Millennials are also labelled as ‘snowflakes’ – this derogatory slang name implies that they are offended easily, attention seeking and ‘mothered’ meaning they lack resilience where they have been mollycoddled their whole lives. Whereas Gen Zers are known to be tech-savvy ‘activists’ who fight for ‘what’s right’ and generally have a very socialist outlook.
Greta Thunberg is a brilliant example of a Gen Zer grabbing activism and running with it – something we’ve never seen before. Greta is the youngest ever person named as Time’s 2019 Person of the Year, and this is down to her dedication to change the world before the climate change we are enduring right now is irreversible.
Not only are Greta’s climate efforts shaking the world, but in 2020 we have seen more protests, social media posts and exciting new movements that promote social equality than ever before – most of which were led by Generation Z. Whether it’s the body positivity movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, or the trans representation in the Olympics, Gen Zers are the most welcoming, inclusive and diverse generation we have ever seen.
Lucy Dodds from Newcastle Upon Tyne, a Senior Content Marketing Consultant born in 1994, feels as though she is in limbo, while Beth Kirkbride, a journalist from Sheffield who was born in 1996 feels that ‘limbo’ is a negative way to describe the situation.
I feel like I want to scream, ‘I’M NOT OLD!’ because unlike my friends, I’m not ready for marriage, children and a house of my own, but I also don’t understand TikTok and I couldn’t tell you who’s in the charts
“I feel like I want to scream, ‘I’M NOT OLD!’ because unlike my friends, I’m not ready for marriage, children and a house of my own, but I also don’t understand TikTok and I couldn’t tell you who’s in the charts,” Lucy explained. While Beth on the other hand thinks that ‘limbo’ has negative connotations, “I wouldn’t say I necessarily feel negative about bridging both groups,” she says. “It’s been a blessing to be able to choose which group to belong to at various points and as helped me fit in better with older coworkers”.
Beth elaborates that she tends to label herself depending on the group she’s with: “At my old job I said I was a Millennial to relate to my older co-workers and then I would say I’m Gen Z when talking to siblings.” She has also noticed a schism between both labels when scrolling on TikTok, “so now I would say I’m either a Millennial or Gen Z depending on whichever group is being less cringe at any given time”.
It’s clear to see that generational labelling can be tricky when you don’t fall neatly into one of the boxes, but it’s also brilliant that those of us born between 93 and 98 can chop and change depending on how we feel, who we’re with and what we remember. Although I initially saw being a ‘Zillennial’ as a disadvantage that left me in limbo – maybe it is a blessing like Beth said. I have the advantage of fitting in with a larger variety of people with memories of MSN messenger that allows me to connect with Millennials, and TikTok trends and dances that allow me to connect with Gen Zers.
If you were born between 1993 and 1998 look at it as a blessing and revel in the fact that you know what YOLO means, as well as understanding and being able to sing along to every word to Doja Cat’s discography. Oh, and at least we’ve been able to wear Tammy Girl-esque clothes twice in our lives thus far… really, we’re the winning generation.
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