Generational divides are arbitrary

Breaking down the not-so-different differences between generations

The Internet has divided different generations more than ever.

If you’re familiar with the Internet, you’ve probably stumbled upon it: an article about 90s fashion trends coming back, or a tweet about boomers being out of touch, or, better yet, a millennial ‘diss track’ bashing Gen Z  for the new the trends they’ve created and hold dear.

This petty battle of the generations—where old values are challenged by the new, and new fads must fight against timeless trends—dominates the online space.

It's a small issue, but it's an interesting phenomenon. When talking about Gen Z versus millennials, finding the line between the two is hard. They’re both generations that grew up in the Internet age, they’re both age demographics that most pop culture tries to appeal to, and they both use social media. Not long ago, I saw BuzzFeed videos talking about “millennial problems,” and I thought I could totally relate as a Gen Z.

Still, age seems to be a big divider, at least online. It feels like I’m being sold the image of a huge, undeniable chasm between people barely five years older than me, but in fact, I can look at someone in their thirties and think, they could be an undergrad on my campus.

The ‘generational divide’ I see talked about the most has to do with values and fashion. For fashion, it's Gen Z versus the millennials, fighting over mom jeans and skinny jeans, how to do your eyebrows, and which multi-million-dollar media franchises are better quality.

For values, the situation is more serious. Gen Z is the more ‘progressive’ generation. It’s home to social media activists, where grassroots activism is more visible than ever. Gen Z has created a world where LGBTQ+ rights are discussed and advocated for more than ever, and social and political change is prioritized.

Meanwhile, previous generations are seen as more complicit, conservative, and oppressive. Such conceptions are represented by the “okay, boomer” meme younger generations made and paired with the general disposition of assuming an old person is racist, sexist, and homophobic.

While these divides seem immovable and potent, our differences are not black and white. There are always nuances.

Here’s the thing: everything we see now is a product of the past.

Once upon a time, some ‘boomers’ were the young people protesting for civil rights. Queer people have existed throughout history, and this new generation can only freely express themselves because, in certain places, it’s less dangerous to be queer than it used to be.

The Internet and social media allow people to speak out, so it’s easier for Gen Z to appear more progressive than previous generations—but that doesn’t mean those generations didn’t see themselves exactly as we see ourselves now.

That isn’t to erase the real ways one’s environment can shape their worldview. We all have that problematic aunt, uncle, or grandparent. I don’t want to take for granted how this more progressive age has given us younger folks easier access to education, which makes us more likely to be openly supportive of LGBTQ+ rights, or more understanding of how racism operates. I also don’t want to condone the racism, homophobia, and overall oppressiveness purported by past generations.

I simply wanted to point out these generational divides are mostly arbitrary categorizations.

Why argue which generation has a bigotry problem when bigotry needs to be fought on all levels? Why do we argue about skinny jeans versus mom jeans when, at the end of the day, they’re only jeans and everyone is entitled to wear what makes them the most comfortable?

These generational divides, especially in online discourse, create rifts where there could be solidarity. We need to stop fighting those older—or younger—than us, and work together to make change.

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