The generational divide is emphasized through social media

For the people growing up in that gap between Disney channel and TikTok.

Annie Johnson, Staff Writer

A Gen Z icon that’s all-too familiar. (Ella Jennings)

Recently on social media apps, especially TikTok and Instagram, an influx of posts by millennials and members of Gen Z pointed out the different style choices of those age groups. Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1996, while Gen Z is made up of people born between 1997 and 2012. What started out as a joke about superficial differences, like the cut of your jeans and how you choose to part your hair, slowly began to draw attention to conflicting opinions and perceptions between generations. As a college-aged person who would be considered an older member of Gen Z, observing this discourse has been very interesting and has emphasized how much when you grow up influences who you are as a person.

Despite the large age gap between generations and the resulting differences, the state of the world at a certain time greatly impacts future opinions and actions of the generation who grew up then. A person’s age, subsequent level of schooling, and daily responsibilities certainly affect their everyday behavior, but I never noticed how much the political and social environment shapes the opinions of various age groups. As you grow up, you are inevitably exposed to certain aspects of the world around you and, more specifically, how your parents react to these environmental factors.

For example, while growing up, I remember watching my parents discuss and handle the effects of many social and political events in the late 2000s, such as the recession in 2007 and 2008. As I get older, I find myself adjusting my own actions in a way that resembles the behaviors of my parents during this time in my life. For example, I find myself being very careful with purchases I make and I am always considering my future when it comes to finances. Some of my opinions will always be slightly influenced by this period. Similar to how the recession and other widespread events of the late 2000s still impact my philosophies today, I believe that younger members of Gen Z and Gen “I” will be greatly influenced by current events today and how their parents reacted to the pandemic. Since each generation grows up in dramatically different political and social environments, common worldviews and behaviors will also differ.

Along with the impact of global circumstances, nostalgia is another important factor in cross-generational differences. While your childhood environment impacts your life, nostalgia for this time usually dictates your tastes and preferences. Nostalgia is formed by what was popular during that period and is strongest with popular culture media such as music, TV shows and fashion. Although popular culture is constantly changing, the enjoyment associated with popular culture elements from years ago will never fluctuate. When remembering these past cultural icons, you will likely still think they are amazing because of how it relates to the opinions of your younger self.

Moreover, people seem to more readily defend superficial opinions than their differing worldviews. The cloud of nostalgia surrounding each of our different childhoods often leads to the defense of older popular culture under the belief that the media of our childhood was the greatest. These arguments are ultimately futile since each generation will offer the same opinion-based evidence without the willingness to change their original stance. Current discourse all over social media is unnecessarily generationally divisive. It is meaningless, since it is entirely based on fashion preferences formed years ago that are now associated with nostalgia and unlikely to change.

In addition, an age group’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent stay-at-home orders differs across the generations. This season has been a very difficult time for everyone, but each generation has found different aspects of the pandemic particularly difficult. For example, I know that for myself, and other older Gen Z people, one of the most upsetting effects of the pandemic is the amount of milestones we missed out on this past year — a circumstance unique to us. Most of our graduations or valuable college time were canceled in the midst of the pandemic. Similar to Gen Z, millennials and people in between the two generations were forced to postpone important aspects of their lives, such as starting a career, buying a house, getting married, and having kids. Despite the differing reactions, each generation has obviously felt very frustrated and anxious by the effects of the virus. Although the recent discourse between age groups has been judgemental, the reactions to the events of this past year emphasized how important civility and cooperation are across generations.

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Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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