Social Update: Baby Boomers v. Millennials


Each new generation in the United States introduces a slew of new divides and differences against the previous, kick sustaining the age-old argument each time that the previous generation had it all together and this new, young, naïve generation is hopelessly lost as they attempt to navigate the world.

This clash between generations is once again evident; the contenders are the so-called “Baby Boomers” and the “Millennials”.  The obvious differences between the two are generally known throughout the country, although many of these contrasting qualities have become sweeping generalizations designed to either uplift or demean them.  

Baby boomers, the term usually associated with people born between the years of 1946 and 1964, grew up in a time of political strife and societal movements that changed the landscape of the nation. Many of these people lived through the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War and the space race. In addition to these milestone events, this age group is normally defined by having grown up as radicals and hippies in the 70s and 80s and are associated with the idea of the “American Dream” and their assumption that they were entitled to success in the working world. While all unspecified generalizations, these terms and ideas have persisted with this generation as new ones have followed. This stereotype has continued to affect how new and different generations of people develop. For example, the baby boomers are widely thought to have the highest divorce rate and helped lead to many of the people growing up as “millennials” to be raised by a single parent.

These qualities of the baby boomers have directly affected how the millennial generation has grown up and how their political beliefs and employment opportunities have developed. The term millennial is usually associated with people born roughly between 1981 and 2000 and these people are also defined by the events that occurred during their adolescent years. These events include school shootings, terrorist attacks, 9/11, and technological advancements that have changed how digital media is used. In addition, millenials are usually considered more likely to be progressive on social issues like gay rights, and are more likely to stay unmarried, in part due to the excessive divorce rates of their parents generation, and also are in worse economic shape than the baby boomers were at the same age.

These differences between the two generations, which are directly connected because of how the baby boomers grew up and learned to operate in society have changed the thinking about each age group.  

The general thought process around baby boomers is that they were promised the “American Dream” and because of this, were considered to be incredibly hard workers, effectively inventing the 50-hour work week and because of this, view the millennial generation as nothing short of lazy.

This particular divide is a defining one between the two generations. The popular idea around this new generation is that they were handed everything; whether it be a last place trophy or a first place trophy, millennials are always rewarded for participating. In addition to these assumptions, it is also widely held that millennials view work not as their main profession, but as means to make money and something that moves them from weekend to weekend, a necessary stop in between moments of fun and recklessness.

Another interesting sociological difference between the two generations is the idea of immediate gratification. This new generation is widely believed to expect results, (and usually positive ones), soon after they achieve or produce something of merit. And while this isn’t at all a negative quality, in comparison to the baby boomer generation, it is starkly different. The important note here is that this stark difference, not the question of whether the difference defines positivity or negativity when viewing these assumptions about work, is what makes the divide between these two generations so prominent.

Baby boomers operate with the idea that work is important and a necessary, innate part of life. They worry about taking time off work, about losing their hold on a position or being pushed down the ranks in a corporation and in sum, their careers define them.

Millennials are growing up as the first generation that has never lived without the Internet or a cell phone. They are generally considered the most tech-savvy generation and because of their use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, this age group is more connected with the world than any generation before it, and it’s not particularly close.

This increase in digital media and digital news has also increased coverage of the problems and dangers of the world like terrorism and shootings. A general assumption about this current generation is that they are coddled and grew up sheltered because the parents of the millennial generation wanted to make sure they were protected from the evils of the world and make sure that they did not grow up in the same period of political strife that they did.

In light of the efforts by the baby boomer generation, the millennials of the world have become a very politically active generation as they have age and become eligible to vote. This presence has increased recently with the election of Donald J. Trump.

While there are not necessarily obvious tensions between these two generations, they do operate with different views of the world, specifically on what their role is in the workplace, the role of employment in general in comparison to leisure activities and the role of people in political movements. These differences in addition to the ever increasing role of technology and digital media in society, could lead to an even bigger divide between the two generations, as one celebrates and supports the progress of technology and continues to be involved with political movements, the other continues using traditional means of media in life and avoids political confrontations.