Sociological topics are a tricky business when it comes to describing our current generation or social features around us. Why? We are still being deeply affected from whatever defines our generations, and yet we can clearly draw a sketch of the way we used to live decades ago. Wherease it is easier for us to comment on Generation X, which includes those born in the 1960s, 1970s and partly the 1980s, or Generation Y, a label commonly applied those who were born in the late 1980s and the 1990s, the future of new generations or what they will make of their place in the course of history is still a matter of speculation. The Cold War is behind us (but, is it?), the Berlin Wall has fallen, and we are now dealing with the aftermath of such events. The innate sense of belonging of the human kind has always created categories in relation to the sense of growing up in a specific age, one that has similarities with others but which encloses the zeitgeist of a specific number of years, perhaps decades.
Both photographer Robert Capa and researcher Jame Deverson are often credited with the first use of the term “Generation X“, though its popularity is due to Douglas Coupland‘s 1991 novel “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture“, in which Coupland describes the lives of three friends who grow up in a society filled with pop culture references, low expectations and no hope for the future. The disillusionment of this generation is often associated with punk and grunge music, and the social issues rising in the 1990s.
Depending on what we consider as digital age, which broadly applies to the years in which digital technology has been made available to the masses and has had a deep influence on them, we can also speak of digital natives. Such term identifies the generation which grew up around mp3s, iPhones, Facebook, Twitter and the likes, and naturally displays a sense of familiarity with a system older generations had to apply a lot more thought to, in order to get the same familiarity. Some theorise that in their adult years, the children of today will manifest a sort of refusal of technology, as they will have grown into these circumstances and therefore need to direct their rebellion towards what they saw and experienced as an established system. But will they be rebels at all? Generation Z (this is what follows Generation Y and generally comprises those born after the year 2000) could mirror the Silent Generation, a label originally applied to those born after 1925 and before 1945; with a few exception, the people who were born in those years did not have a manifesto and patiently hoped for fate and faith to turn their lives around for the better, with the impact of the Great Depression and World War II being too much to handle. However, in the literature world, people who were born in those decades would later write and publish “To Kill A Mockingbird” (Harper Lee), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Ken Kesey”) or “Possession” (A.S. Byatt), so from a literary perspective it is not so much of a silence, but rather a refined, more subtle, less obvious way of narrating events and developing stories.
Because of the Economic Crisis of 2008 and following years, some researchers already see a mirror of that in Generation Z, which has already been labelled the new Silent Generation. There may be patterns, coincidences and speculations, but honestly, how can we predict the development of a whole generation without being able to foresee the historical, social, economical elements that will influence their lifetimes?