Breaking Free: Generational Stereotypes

Black table with books, pens and different colored post-it notes. White tri-fold display with title, instructions, generational labels, and post-it notes with writing on them.
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Friday, Apr 12, 2019

This spring, the Johnson County Library has been exploring the theme Breaking Free. While the library programs have been focusing primarily on food insecurity, this theme can be applied to many areas of life, such as generational stereotypes.

From workplace complaints to praise, from ageism to closing the generation gap, from generations colliding to breaking through stereotypes, opinions abound regarding the different generations. Quite a few articles have been written about the different generations, how they interact, and how to work and live with them. You can also find a number of books on the subject in the library’s catalog.

Is there any truth to these stereotypes? At the Corinth branch of the Johnson County Library, we asked patrons to write a few words describing themselves and their own generation. Here are some of the responses:

[Please note that there are differing opinions as to what the years are.]

Greatest Generation (born 1910-1924)

A penny saved was a penny earned*****Nearly everything was created, done, made, and prepared by hands

Silent Generation (born 1925-1945)

Great music****Rock and roll generation****Wonderful pop music – Bing, Frank, Doris, Peggy****We were very safe – kids had no fear of being hurt or taken****Played outside in neighborhoods, only worry was the cold war!

Baby Boomers (born 1646-1964)

Grateful Dead/Star Trek generation****Anti-war****Played outside without parental supervision****Invited people over just because = hospitality****Rolling Stones, Temptations, Beach Boys, Four tops, Sonny & Cher****Everyone watched the same 3 (only) television networks****Station wagon, no seat belts****Went to drive-in movies everywhere****Vietnam****Hippie*Peace*Woodstock*Women’s rights*Civil Rights****Rock music! Erick Clapton, Beatles, Rare Earth, ELP, Led Zeppelin

Generation X (born 1965-1979)

Played outside all day****Angst***Apathy***Grunge****Aimless****Alternative: Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Nirvana, Pearl Jam****Atari****Phonogram, aka, a record player****Cassette player****Frugal****Metal roller skates with leather straps****Album rock* MTV*Metal*NKOTB****M*A*S*H****Frugal****VCR**Walkman****Less worry about growing up****Self-sufficient****We raised ourselves****We invented the internet!

Millennials/Gen Y (born 1980-1994)

Lonely***Nintendo***My Little Pony***Dream phone****Cartoons in AM****Bored to death****Passionate**Overwhelmed**Optimistic****POkiemon****Y2K****TRL, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Brittany Spears, Eminem, Dixie Chicks****Nostalgic – remembering the days before the influx of technology****Knowledgeable, Ignorant, Contradictory****Only ‘(0’s kids will understand****Ghost in the graveyard****9/11, iPhone tech, .com boom, Housing market bubble burst****Transitional: before and after smart phones****Hardworking, Aspirational, innovative

iGen/Gen Z (born 1995-present)

Technology****Electronics, sadly, and global warning****More social on social media****Accepting****Most live double lives, online/society self & then our true selves****Flexible***Roblex***Fortnite****Almost nobody uses cursive at my age/in my generation****Fantastic Beasts, Lego, Harry Potter****Snapchat is the new craze****More Nintendo, Xbox, and Playstation****Everyone wants to be a “trend setter”****Memes****More playing outside, I wish****Indoors :(

Of all the words written, what jumps out to me are two topics that keep recurring across all the generations: what/where we play and the music we listen to. According to our patrons, every generation believes its music is the best. While I’m not foolish enough to judge which is the best, I would suggest that if you want to better understand the different generations, listen to their music and observe how they play.

Stereotypes pigeonhole us all; putting labels on our generations and insisting that we all fit into neat little categories. In just a few weeks, our patrons showed us how to break free of these restricting stereotypes by using their own experiences and terms to portray themselves and their generations.

What words would you use to describe your generation?

Diane H.

Written by Diane H.

Fun fact: Corinth was my neighborhood library when I was a kid.