Declaring oneself as a Xennial is not unlike declaring yourself a vexillologist. It’s part of who you are despite the fact that the majority of people haven’t the slightest clue what it is.
Crammed in-between the often romanticized Generation X and the widely derided Millenials is what sociologists refer to as a “micro-generation.” It’s that very small block of time from 1977-1983 that gave birth to that handful of people who don’t fit in with the generations preceding or following. It’s a clash of culture that can only be summed up with the alien-sounding portmanteau of “Xennial.”
Originally, Xennials were supposed to be called The Oregon Trail Generation. It was actually a far more accurate description of not only the time and place in which we grew up — but also the uncertainty of our place. It was a reference to a video game played during “computer lab time” in schools during the mid-1980’s. Schools had these shiny new computers, but no clue what to do with them. So we spent our time learning the realities of the Westward Expansion once a week for an hour and a half. It’s why not many of us name our kids “Mary” — we don’t want our kids dying of cholera.
While the esoteric name never stuck, it’s an accurate summation of the Xennial experience. We are the beta testers of modern culture.
Being a Xennial means you grew up with technology, but you also grew up with the crappiest version of it. Sure you had the internet, but it was dial-up and your parents paid by the minute. Cell phones were around, but calls were $4 a minute and the batteries lasted half an hour at the max. Movies on demand meant driving to Blockbuster. You carried your music with you, but listening to more than one artist meant carrying a Discman case with 3, maybe 4 CD’s inside.
It creates a bizarre scenario where Xennials look down their nose at “the kids who will never know” what it’s like to have inconvenient technology.
Having grown up with new technology cropping up on what seemed like a weekly basis, gives Xennials a certain willingness to adopt that is lacking from Generation X. It is a Xennial who happily downloads and installs Snapchat before realizing they have no idea what the hell it’s used for. Single Xennials hear about Tinder and decide that’s a magnificent place to meet someone, only to find out nobody on Tinder wants to meet a 36-year-old.
Nobody knows quite what to do with us Xennials. We’re unclassifiable and tragically out of touch with either side of the raging culture wars. We understand the Millenials’ aloofness and indifference because we invented it, yet we still have trouble figuring out what being “woke” actually entails. We are able to reminisce with our Gen-X co-workers about drinking Zima, except that our stories usually involve buying it with a fake ID.
In some ways, Xennials are still the fashionably depressed, flannel-clad high school kids too bored to Rock The Vote. We never lost the right to complain about how nobody understands us and how we’ll never fit in. Nobody will ever “get” Nirvana like we do. Nobody understands us.
On the other hand, a Xennial gets the best of both worlds. We appreciate technology for the miracle it is and are forever open to its evolution. We have seen a world divided and we watched as walls came down. We move seamlessly between the tribes. We are chameleonic in our despair.
In the end, it’s not so bad slipping through the cracks of sociology. We don’t have to answer for ourselves, or anyone else — because we’re invisible. We get to pick and choose our enemies and allies in the culture wars. We are the only true moderates left in a world of extremism.
We have truly led a semi-charmed life.