Gen X [meme]: Slackers, Sellouts or Saviors

Generation X

Generation X

Maddie Grant from SocialFish has started I meme asking if GenX has sold out. I can’t help but jump in here. Being a proud Gen Xer I’ve said a few things about my generation and our contribution to society.

Every generation resents the status quo. Every teenager has angst so lets set that aside.

My first thought is that despite the general rage and discontent we were and still are largely apathetic (hence the slacker tag). We all make trade-offs as we “settle down” if we don’t we usually end up being homeless or in jail. But as I said in the comment on her Maddie’s blog:

I love this topic. There’s a great HBR case study called The Next 20 Years, I highly recommend it (you can get it as an audio book on iTunes and it’s not very long). In it they talk about the different archetypes (there’s 4) and cycles that each generation follows.

Boomers are selfish (they said it  but yes I agree with it) and Xers are more pragmatic. Boomers sold their collective hippie souls for corporate jobs with fat paycheck doing things they didn’t like. Xers as a whole don’t take jobs just for the money (we do like money though). If we don’t like something we have no problem walking out the door and making our own way, with our own rules.

Despite being half as small as either the Boomers or GenY, we are the single most entrepreneurial generation EVER!

We may not rage against the machine anymore but that’s only because we are finally empowered to fix things and do what we see as right. We don’t have to take the man’s shit anymore.

Yes we may take jobs and play nice but, collectively, we were never anti-capitalism. We just didn’t like being told what to do. Now we don’t have to and, yes, it takes some of the edge off that rage. But just try telling us we can’t do something.

In all fairness every generation makes a huge impact both for better and for worse.  I admit to still having some angst at the way my parents generation did things, and I tend to remember much of the negative but we wouldn’t have been able to do the things we have done if they hadn’t done the things they had done.

History will judge us and it will be interesting to see how we’re portrayed. I hope our entrepreneurialism is remembered but more than anything else I hope that like the Baby Boomers and their parents and their parent we serve as an example to lead the Gen Y and my children and their children to bigger and better than things than we could have done.

About Tac Anderson

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.
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  • Steve Nipper


    I sure hope we are different…but I worry it will be more of the same. We'll turn out just like the generation before us. Take for instance, take the old Genesis song “Land of Confusion,” which includes:

    I won't be coming home tonight
    My generation will put it right
    We're not just making promises
    That we know we'll never keep

    If People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive 1986 (Phil Collins*) couldn't “put it right”…how can we hope to be any different?

    How will we be different? How will we be the generation that makes a different in the long term?

    *yes, I totally made that up.

  • Taylor Davidson

    I would like to think that “slacking” is not an intractable Gen X disposition but was (is?) instead a rational choice given the available options. The “rage against the machine” is still there; without the opportunities to have an impact on their terms, Gen Xers directed the rage internally by dropping out of the game (slacking), but given the opportunities to impact the game itself, the rage can be a powerful driving force. Or at least that's my hope…

  • gregorylent

    oh, slacking is generation-non-specific, runs right across and through the years/generations/incarnations … as to rage, waste of energy, but that is not seen for a few years/generations/incarnations …

    love trumps slack, is another topic .. :-)