Defining a Generation
Usually generations are defined not by a group or demographic of people that fit into a time bracket, but rather the events that the group went through in order to form their general beliefs and awareness about the world they live in.
The Veteran generation was formed by the Great Depression and World Wars which made them very frugal, loyal and conservative people.
Baby Boomers were influenced by civil unrest, an era of prosperity and technological advances in space and science making them independent and entrepreneurial.
Gen X was formed by the AIDs epidemic, enhancements in education and not quite fitting in which led to their individual ruggedness and rebellious thinking.
And, Millennial/Gen Y was formed by societal structures like safety and protection being challenged with 9/11, civil unrest like corporation collapse, the Great Recession, gay rights, the Middle East wars, and a tech boom. But wait, we’re only half way through the Millennial generation! Half of the Millennials haven’t even graduated high school yet. All the events that we’ve used to identify this generation are actually on the front half of this generation. There is still a lot more that could potentially happen - generationally speaking - especially for those younger Millennials still in their forming years.
Major Differences Between 'Older' and 'Younger' Millennials
Here are some major differences between older Millennials and younger Millennials. Older Millennials originally grew up in a time of major prosperity and safety during the Clinton administration. The younger Millennials grew up in a time of recession and insecurity with terrorism and privacy being threatened everywhere. Older Millennials grew up in a time when there wasn’t internet (having publicly formed 15 years after the start of the generation), there wasn’t social media (having formed 24 years after the start of the generation) and smart phones and instant communication channels were just being developed (most older Millennials did not text in high school). The older Millennials may be native to these technologies but they also remember a time when the technology wasn’t around – younger Millennials do not.
Is The Tech Evolution To Blame?
So what’s going on here? Why doesn’t the Millennial generation fit into a nice, little bracket of time like every other generation seems to? My theory would be that technology has created the splintering effect of this generation unlike any other generation before it. Sure, the Baby Boomers had their tech boom and even Gen X with the personal computer had their tech boom, but the Millennial generation is truly witnessing a technology evolution unlike any time in recent history.
Moore's law is the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. Easily put, technology, because of its very nature, grows and multiples upon itself every two years for faster and faster growth. There are now theories out there that suggest that this 2 year time table is actually getting faster due to technology multiplying upon itself! Can we agree that technology is moving at a quite remarkable and accelerated speed these days? Five years ago you had a two-year contract with your phone because that’s about the time it took to come out with a new, technologically-advanced phone. Now, every 6 months Apple is releasing a new phone or iPad that eclipses the former version in technological advancement – our 2-year contract with the phone company is obsolete and archaic when you think about when you would actually like to go purchase the new iPhone. Technology is exploding at a huge rate.
A Moment In History Where Technology Is Influencing Everything Else
But Moore’s law is only half the equation (no pun intended). Technology alone does not define a generation (usually). There are other elements that influence a generation’s belief and perception about the world – culture, society, war, famine, prosperity. What’s interesting and why I think we’re seeing a splinter effect of generations is because the technology evolution is so massive that it has begun to influence the other elements. Technology has influenced and accelerated cultural and societal changes (Arab Spring, gay rights, economic transparency, elections, and world-wide poverty and disease) through a media-rich, technology growth rate. Technology has transformed modern day warfare with drones, precision missiles and soon, soldierless battles. However, the future of warfare will consequently be based more on security, privacy and biologics because of the speed of technology. There will come a time that, if we choose, that we will be able to feed everyone on the planet and help mother nature rid earth of our carbon footprint because technology has allowed us to. What would happen if we found a cure for cancer and liberated the world of AIDs before this generation was over? Would the younger Millennials think differently about education and health than the older Millennials?
We are seeing fantastical changes in all areas of human development and the way that influences a 15 year old is much different than that of a 25 year old. The beliefs, perceptions and values of the younger Millennial generation may in fact be different than that of the older Millennial generation.
Inter-Generational Technology Growth
Inter-generational technology growth is the reason why older Millennials think celebrities, Facebook and selfies are a bit tongue-in-cheek and are meant to be taken half-seriously, while the younger Millennials have become worshippers and bullies of them. Technology is the reason why older Millennials reportedly do well with 2 devices on (TV and smart phone), while younger Millennials can handle upwards of 3-4 devices on at once (TV, smart phone, iPad). We see the differences in this splintered generation more often then we may think.
What do you think? Are we knit-picking here, or do you see a remarkable difference in older Millennials and younger Millennials not because of age or where they are in their life-stage, but because they have been influenced differently by major societal and technological changes in their forming years?