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What Year Were You Born? Does it matter?

Sat Nam, and Welcome In!

As a psychologist by training, and as the daughter of a psychologist, my focus since middle school has been on the individual’s experience of reality. Whether I was trying to fit in at school or at parties, or trying to determine which people I could trust, or, as an adult, diagnosing mental illnesses, or learning problems, or how to cope within my personal relationships—I was intensely concerned with the details of the Person In Front of Me.

Psychology is the study of the individual mindset. Long conversations with my dad were always about what was going on with This person, That person, or Me. It was rarely about groups of people, and what generalizations we could make. Tread lightly here, I think my dad said, when I asked, for instance, what kind of person gets addicted to alcohol or drugs, or becomes a sex worker, or joins a cult, or joins a fraternity, or becomes President of the United States. Too many variables. End of conversation.

As a retired adult, I have studied Sociology, and have been casually interested in how groups function and grapple with our present reality. An individual in that group may or may not conform to the group’s characteristics, that is understood. We should not make assumptions about any individual with too few data points. (But we do anyway, because the Mind works that way. Just stay conscious of that fact—the mind will work and will be wrong a LOT of the time.)

This is a think-piece, designed to give some insight into how people of the same generation might tend to respond to “reality” with conditioned responses.

We, all of us, are conditioned; we have to be, in order to function on auto-pilot during our day. We develop, not just problem-solving mechanisms (how to drive a car, what to get for lunch) but whole personalities, to make responding to our environment, well, easier to remember how! We have patterns of behavior; people begin to expect that we will behave like this or that because that’s what we usually do. Conditioned responses.

So many variables interact to form our personalities:

Our primary caregiver’s experiences, the economic realities we saw, our body’s limitations, our cultural expectations (which we met or did not meet), our schools, our geography (stable, unstable), our secondary and tertiary caregivers, our traumas. Our DNA, our diet, our memories—all shape our personalities.

As inquisitive humans, we LOVE sociology. We are consumed with all manner of efforts to make generalizations about things. We love to join groups for support, for validation, for hanging out with those who are like us in some way.

We love:

Astrology: What do the heavenly bodies say about me born on this day at this time, and, under the current circumstances how are we all affected?

Numerology: I was born 12/12/2012, what does that mean?

Belongingness: We all belong to this ethnicity, this fraternity, this secret society, this religion, this skin color, this economic class, etc. so we can rest assured about _________. Fill it in and feel comfort.

Personality tests that basically say you are one of 16, or 9, or some other number, of basic Types are popular.

Knowing where new friends are on the political spectrum, so we know a bit more about Where They Stand. During the height of Covid-19, one query was: Vaxxed or unvaxxed? Which group you were in meant a lot to some people—dare I say, most people.

Remember what I keep in the forefront of my brain 100% of the time: sociology is an interesting tool, but not as good as psychology when it comes to assessing the person in front of you. Always remember, the Other Person is You, in disguise, anyway. You’re as likely to just know more about yourself as the other person when you judge. (Also, psychology, while a better tool, is not great at being scientific. We are not machines, so we don’t all respond to current scientifically-arrived-at solutions. A great psychologist is not just about the individual, she is also about the culture, and the world, and reality, and her own conditioning.)

So here’s the disclaimer; the following is offered to the community as a way to have a better of understanding the basic differences between us, based on something over which we have little choice: the 15-20 year or so span during which we were born.

Generations have been popping up in my feed everywhere. There’s a new bestseller about it.

I’ve always been both very interested, and very confused. by this, so I did some research and put this piece together. It has some of my own conditioning in there, as I am a persona as well.

The Generations

(Note: there are going to be slight differences in these dates depending upon who you ask; for instance, Mark McCrindle puts Gen Alpha from 2010-2024)

Greatest Generation (1901-1927)

Silent Generation (1928-1945)

Baby Boomer (1946-1964)

Gen X (1965-1980)

Gen Y or Millennials (1981-1996)

Gen Z (1997-2012)

Gen Alpha or iGen (2013-2025)

The Facts, the Assumptions, the Stereotypes:

Greatest Generation: (thanks to Tom Brokaw, who coined the phrase as the title of a book he wrote) These are the parents and grandparents of the Silent Gen and Baby Boomers. 1901-1927

  • High levels of loyalty and respect for authority

  • Dignified and stoic attitude; they lacked a carefree childhood

  • Committed to hard work and sacrifice

  • Strong sense of family values, religion, faith

  • Believe in the American Dream

  • Fiscally conservative; use, reuse and save everything

  • Respect for honor and traditions

  • Fiercely patriotic

  • Strong personal convictions, sees right and wrong in black and white

  • Dislike of confrontation and outspokenness; especially forbidden in girls and women

  • Charismatic presidents, glamorous movie stars, iconic world leaders—we all stand on their robust shoulders.

  • Having seen WWI, and WWII, and very hard economic times, and terrible diseases, and lots of filth and poor treatment of humans and animals, they tend(ed) to be quiet, sullen, hard-hearted, lacking an easy sense of humor, seemingly indifferent to suffering they could not alleviate, and reluctant to change

  • Walt Disney (1901), Bob Hope (1903), Satchel Paige (1906), Mother Teresa (1910), Ronald Reagan (1911), Rosa Parks (1913), Walter Cronkite (1916), Nelson Mandela (1918), Jackie Robinson (1919), Johnny Carson (1925)

Silent Generation (thanks to Time Magazine, 1951); the children of The Greatest Generation, parents of Baby Boomers 1928-1945

  • Grew up expected to be seen, huddled in the corner— or doing chores— and not heard.

  • Not safe to be outspoken or have strong opinions, especially that go against the norm. Physical violence from trusted adults was the norm for misbehavior. Alcoholism rampant in families

  • Grew up in Great Depression, lost family in WWII, and to disease; lots of debilitating, painful and deadly diseases, many lacked antibiotics, effective medical treatments.

  • Extremely frugal, strong work ethic, resilient, don’t complain, determined to make lemonade from lemons.

  • Explosion of music and movie stars in the 50s and 60s.

  • Comedy as an elevated art form became a Thing.

  • Athletics exploded with expansion of what the human body could achieve

  • Started the Civil Rights Movement

  • Landed on the Moon

  • Began Feminism

  • Called Silent but made lasting social changes

  • Presently our mothers/fathers and grandmothers/fathers

  • Elizabeth Taylor (1932), Chuck Grassley (1933) Dianne Feinstein (1933) James Brown (1933), Jane Goodall, (1934), Tina Turner (1939), John Lennon (1940), Bob Dylan (1941), Mitch McConnell (1942), Muhammad Ali (1942), Mick Jagger (1943), Clinton, GW Bush, Trump (1946), Steven Spielberg and Freddie Mercury (1946)

Baby Boomers: Explosion (boom) of babies after WWII ended. The children of the Silent Generation and the Parents of Gen X and Gen Y 1946-1964

  • Experienced the greatest rate of economic growth in human history; can have trouble sympathizing with current economic problems and failures. They often define themselves by/strongly identify with their occupation. Judge others by what they do/ how much money they have. Have made our advancements in medicine, physics, and technology happen.

  • Financially secure, well-educated, healthy. Still working out, playing at games, sports, hobbies

  • Often ignorant regarding the benefits of diversity

  • Politically active, fiscally and often socially conservative, but may be closet hippies; ask how they feel about Nixon, Reagan, Trump or Woodstock 1969, to get a clue.

  • Best acting, musicians, dancers, artists of the last 100 years, domination of explosion of quality creativity; they have their talented and sacrificing parents to thank for that

  • Strong sense of community, family values

  • Commitment to life-long learning

  • Early retirement if healthy and financially secure; however, many work into their 70s and likely beyond

  • Tendency to think ME first; the power in the world has revolved, and continues to revolve, around them because there are so MANY of them

  • If White and in America or the UK, they can tend to be privileged, think the old ways of the world were better than today, nostalgic for their youth, have disdain for diversity. Discount how environment shapes a person, tends to believe you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, and if you fail, it’s probably your own fault. If you succeed, it’s your birthright.

  • David Bowie (1947), Robin Williams (1951), Oprah Winfrey (1954), Bill Gates/Steve Jobs (1955), Michael Jackson (1958) Barak Obama (1961) Michael Jordan (1963), Jeff Bezos (1964)

Generation X: (with thanks to writer Douglas Copeland, 1991, “X” referring to a lack of identity) 1965-1980

  • Skeptical of institutions in government, religion, corporations like Google, banks, justice system, those in power. Willing to consider conspiracy theories by “doing their own research” into them, often accepting them. Great division between this population lies here between QAnon and MSM.

  • Skeptical of marriage

  • Single parent, or both parents working; latch-key kids

  • Prefer to work independently; dislike of teams, meetings, group-think

  • Highly educated and like to stay informed about world events and forming opinions about everything

  • Value balance in work and life outside of work; likely to incorporate “self-care” into every day—“work hard, play hard”

  • Grew up playing video games

  • Prefer to collaborate rather than compete with others

  • Able to adapt and adopt new tech quickly, easily

  • Well-versed in both analog and digital universe

  • Prefer entrepreneurship to corporate culture.

  • Value diversity in all spheres of Life

  • Are reaching their peak social, political and earning power. and the next 10 years or so will be on them to show us who they are. Will they continue to vote like boomers? Will they continue to pursue the $$$ like boomers?

  • Can be slackers, they invented the phrase.

  • Tendency to get lost in society; they are the MAGA people, the preppers, the militia men, the QAnon supporters etc. But they’re also our brilliant media content providers, comedic geniuses, and many of our YouTube heroes.

  • J.K. Rowling (1965), Jennifer Lopez (1969), Elon Musk (1971), Dwayne Johnson (1972), Kristen Bell (1980).

Gen Y or Millennials —the first of them came of age around the turn of the century/millennium. Children of Boomers and Generation X 1981-1996

  • Tech-savvy; early adopters of tech and media

  • Intuitively use smart phones, computers, apps, AI assisted phone calls, chat customer service, etc. Know how to get things done efficiently and with the least amount of time and effort.

  • High expectations: seek to find a satisfying job quickly and climb the ladder early in their career; work to have the leisure life they want. Were told they were unique and fabulous, could be whatever they wanted to be, given lots of support and attention, often with helicopter parents. Can make for a “dissatisfied with everything” kind of person

  • Self-confident and comfortable taking risks in order to achieve greatness, comfort, nice things. Confident, ambitious, lack loyalty to relationships. May prefer freedom to date well into their 30s. Less interested in having a few children. Loyal IN relationships, but once out, they’re OUT. May quit a job or leave a romantic partner quickly and easily if something better comes along (compared to Boomers)

  • Goal-oriented: focused on achieving success and juggling several tasks at once and quickly/easily switching between multiple projects

  • Open-minded; comfortable sharing space and resources with diverse peoples of color, gender, ethnicity, outlook, religion, values, beliefs, etc.

  • Highly active and engaged in social networking; see Tik Tok, Instagram

  • Two words: Student debt. They’re in their early 30s and have not yet begun to reach their peak!

  • High School Graduation during events surrounding 9/11/2001; Great Recession of 2007/2008; Hurricane Katrina in 2005; huge increase in USA of gun violence, without any response from those in power, have had a heavy influence on their attitudes

  • Fairly uninterested in world politics, seeing how family discussions are going, they see that spouting that knowledge is divisive; they just don’t seem as passionate about events outside their own interests as Gen X or Boomers, because, they don’t want to fight! They just want to get ahead, and get along. They also see power institutions as broken, hypocritical and ineffective. They know about the world, but they often don’t want to talk about it

  • Then there is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (1989), and the rest of the Squad, so yeah. Look out. Those who are interested are INTERESTED. Millennials are not growing more conservative as the age, the way Boomers and Gen X, arguably, did. Look for progressives to lead the way in America, if not worldwide. What we are seeing now are the last-gasp efforts of the very old, to maintain their standards of living.

  • Beyonce (1981), Pete Buttigieg (1982) Chris Hemsworth (1983), LeBron James (1984), Lady Gaga (1986), Rihanna (1988), Taylor Swift (1989)

Gen Z: are mostly the Children of Generation X 1997-2012

  • Digital natives: grew up with smart phones, tablets, internet access. They have always been connected, and are accustomed to conducting their lives through technology. Least likely to ask an adult for help with Life; will ask Reddit, consult social media, or their IRL friends.

  • Unconventional: even more so than Millennials, they are more tolerant, open-minded, and unorthodox in their views. Many believe in no organized religion, and consider themselves to be “spiritual, but not religious,” or are atheists/agnostics. Frank and open sexual-and gender-benders. They care/do not care about pronouns.

  • Entrepreneurial: Gen Z is driven to start their own businesses and brand themselves as influencers in an area where they can pursue and enjoy becoming an expert in a field of like-minded people

  • Diverse: racially and ethnically diverse, religious diversity, gender fluidity, embracing queer, activist, unconventional body modification, music and art appreciation, alternative health and wellness practices, alteration of consciousness practices; first generation with uncomplicated access to Enlightenment philosophies and Awakening.

  • Frugal: Cost-consciousness is a key factor driving decision-making in lifestyle and essential purchases

  • Social: Well-informed, will fight against injustice. Connected and engaged and actively seeking out opportunities to collaborate or create social wellness in wider and nearby community.

  • Greta Thunberg (2003), Amika George (1999), David Hogg (2000), Joshua Wong (1996), Elle Rose van Der Burg/Baby Caramelle (1998?) and Hadiqa Bashir (2002) all are Gen Z’ers who are already changing the world for the better (IMO) for all of us.

  • Overall (biased) impression is this: the left wing of the world is producing some really magnificent activists. The right wing is producing some really angry reactionaries. Guns, violence, intimidation, fear, book bans, hate groups, MTG, Boebert, DeSantis, neo-nazi oppression, are all on the rise. But the future looks bright on the progressive spectrum. Wait and see.

  • Malala Yousafzai (1997), Toheeb Jimoh (1997), Simone Biles (1997), Amanda Gorman (1998), Lil Nas X (1999) Madison Ziegler (2002) Tik Tok stars too numerous to name

Gen Alpha/iGen; the children of Gen Y/Millennials 2103-2025

Here are observations, guesses, these folks are too young to make many broad generalizations about.

  • In 2023, if you are 9-12 years old or younger, you are Gen Alpha. For at least another 2-5 years, all babies born will be Gen Alpha. Native digital citizens, very independent and self-centered; passionate about things

  • Open to newness, eager to learn, try new ideas, excited to explore the world. Will appear hyper to Grandma and Grandpa.

  • High expectations in terms of material comforts; not likely to have siblings, or many siblings.

  • Highly collaborative, more diverse than even Gen Z; what you are, who you are, based on historical standards, won’t be a thing they really care about. Minorities may get a break here, politically, finally

  • Willingness to challenge norms in society, government, religion, work

  • Focused on creating positive change, building relationships

  • Unafraid of AI, lack of privacy, virtual reality, cashless society, plant medicine, all manner of rapid change.

  • Expect to be seen, heard, valued, and taken seriously

  • Environmentally conscious, believing in the power of personal (and collective) responsibility

  • Embrace the widest array of artistic expression, including visual, performance, and writing

  • Many may look like they have attention deficits, lacking ability to stay focused on one thing, sit still, etc. This will make schools fail to educate even more than they already do fail. Will probably force radical changes in education and children’s health care. Wait and see.

Let me know what you think! Drop a comment or send me an email! I hope this helps you have good conversations about the generations next time you gather with friends.

Sat Nam,


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