The PR BlogCreativityRabbit HoleWhat Remains of the Xennials Generation?

What Remains of the Xennials Generation?

Check your ego and come lounge with us. We have sofas and tea.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Most of the Xennials’ sub­cul­ture has van­ished — but not all of it.

The micro-gen­er­a­tion born between 1977 and 1983 has been labelled The Oregon Trail gen­er­a­tion, named after the sem­in­al video game. Other names include The Xennials, The Carter Babies, Generation Y, and Generation Catalano. We grew up with one foot in the ana­logue world and the oth­er in the digital. 

One day, the Xennials will be “the last gen­er­a­tion that remem­bers and lived a life before the Internet.”

Xennials - Commodore 64
Press play on tape. The clas­sic Commodore 64 screen.

I was born in 1979 in Sweden. In 1987, at 7 – 8 years old, I gathered my sav­ings and bought a com­puter, the now-legendary Commodore 64. Growing up meant play­ing not only Commodore 64 but also Atari, Amiga, Sega, and Nintendo with friends. 

And yes, I played Oregon Trail and many oth­er games like it.

Xennials - The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail: The obstacle is the way.

As 90s teen­agers, the Xennials grew up watch­ing My So-Called Life, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, and Friends. We listened to Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses — and that par­tic­u­lar brand of artsy but upbeat pop that the 90s had to offer. We were socially con­scious but not rebel­li­ous. We suffered nor­mal levels of teen­age angst and were all iden­tity-seekers with no com­mon goal to unite around.

But all of that is in the past. And we have since moved on.

Today, we find ourselves amidst a hyper­bol­ic cul­ture war, where both extremes grav­it­ate towards oddit­ies like iden­tity polit­ics, semi-organ­ised online bul­ly­ing, and can­cel cul­ture. I’m afraid I must dis­agree with either side of this war or any point along the diag­on­al between them.

It begs me, “What’s my cul­ture — and where did it go?”

Xennials - My So Called Life
Two great act­ors from My So-Called Life.

Here’s my hypo­thes­is: Xennials, as a gen­er­a­tion­al cohort, struggle to nav­ig­ate the cul­ture wars. We can­not come to terms with today’s zeit­geist. We want to — but it eludes us.

When exactly, we ask ourselves while scratch­ing our Xennial heads in bewil­der­ment, did the vil­lains become the heroes?

To us, it’s simple: We know we’re not spe­cial. In Tyler Durden’s words, “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the con­tents of your wal­let. You’re not your fuck­ing kha­kis. You’re the all-singing, all-dan­cing crap of the world.”

We all have per­son­al struggles, but no one gets a free “douchebag pass.” Sure, Xander had a rough go grow­ing up, and he also wasn’t chosen to be a vam­pire killer like Buffy or bestowed with magic­al powers like Willow, but he opted to be a good friend.

People some­times dis­agree and fight, but bullish and selfish beha­viour is a symp­tom of per­son­al trauma. If today’s polit­ic­al cli­mate were an epis­ode of My So-Called Life or Beverly Hills 90210, both sides would even­tu­ally have to deal with their emo­tion­al baggage.

Xennials - Beverly Hills 90210
Beverly Hills 90210: No short­age of drama.

Some con­ver­sa­tions are uncom­fort­able, but that means that they must be had. And then we need to move the fuck on. Hate will only fester and trans­form its bear­ers into those dark creatures of the Upside Down in Stranger Things.

Still, I don’t think our sense of being out-of-sync has any­thing to do with the cur­rent state of pub­lic affairs. As a small and unas­sum­ing gen­er­a­tion between Generation X and the Millennials, I guess we some­how for­got to pro­tect our values:

Honesty. Vulnerability. Tolerance. Acceptance. Support.

Instead, the Xennials have been con­di­tioned to bridge back and forth between two large cohorts. Like a gen­er­a­tion­al middle child, we’ve made our beds as we go — los­ing much of our cul­tur­al identity. 

Generation X pro­mote self-right­eous­ness and cyn­icism, while Millennials grav­it­ate toward emo­tion­al safety and enti­tle­ment. So, when Generation X accuses Millennials of being entitled and uncool, we chime in. And we chime in when Millennials accuse Generation X of fuck­ing up the plan­et and being laggards.

If we, a quiet micro-gen­er­a­tion, have pre­served any dis­tinc­tions or hall­marks, what are they?
Do we even have any cul­tur­al fea­tures left?

While most of what used to be our cul­ture has van­ished, I think that one char­ac­ter­ist­ic remains: Xennials still frown upon douchebag­gery, that type of mega­lo­mania that seems so prom­in­ent in today’s me-culture. 

Read also: The Selfie Generation — An Epidemic of Online Narcissism

When meet­ing people who brag about their her­it­age, status, careers, achieve­ments, hard­ships, spe­cial interests, per­sua­sions, or tal­ents, I can’t ima­gine them as poten­tial friends. Like, “Ross, spare us that lec­ture on palae­on­to­logy, please.”

Your qual­it­ies are defined not by how you self-identi­fy but by how you behave towards your friends. Anyone is wel­come to stop by and hang out; just don’t put on airs.

Case in point: My wife was born in 1982, and we share these micro-cul­tur­al pref­er­ences. Whenever we have a couple of hours to spare, we hang out. It’s like an epis­ode of Friends where our liv­ing room is our Central Perk. I could nev­er see myself liv­ing with someone that doesn’t put being a good friend first.

Xennials - Friends - Central Perk
Central Perk in Friends: I want my liv­ing room to feel like this.

I think that the Xennial gen­er­a­tion still shares this deeply rooted anti-douchebag­gery pref­er­ence. If you want to play rich on Instagram or brag about your hip­ster hob­bies, I’m sorry: you’re an asshole.

Ultimately, at least to us, your char­ac­ter is a choice.
And — it’s the only choice that truly matters.

If noth­ing else, mor­al char­ac­ter choices were the cent­ral theme of our pop-cul­tur­al upbring­ing; it’s that man­dat­ory socially-con­scious epis­ode of every weekly tele­vi­sion drama or sit­com for an entire teen­age dec­ade. We want to hang out, be nice, and play video games with friends. 

Do you want to be a social justice war­ri­or to show the world how pure you are? Do you want to wield the con­ser­vat­ive axe in the fight against lib­er­al snow­flakes? Do you think your emo­tion­al bag­gage makes you more “spe­cial” than oth­ers? Maybe you have many social media fol­low­ers; per­haps your car is nice? 

That’s fine; you do you. 

But if you want to get in with the Xennials, don’t for­get what it means to be a friend. Check your ego bull­shit at the door, and come lounge with us. We have sofas and tea.

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo


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