The Generation Gap Isn’t What it Used to Be

The generation gap that separated me from my parents was defined by our views on music, sex, skirt lengths, the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon’s presidency. My whole goal in shopping was to buy things my parents hated. But my children and I like the same music, have similar politics and shop for clothes in the same stores. The issues that separate me from my offspring are of an entirely different nature.

Where has the generation gap gone?  Once defined by cultural touchstones and political splits, the gap that divides the generations is now far more subtle, defined by differences in outlook and attitude, rather than fundamental beliefs.

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My sons think nothing of leaving the house and venturing out in public in their PJ bottoms. This has been a recurring nightmare of mine since 1971.

I use cash. They use credit for any purchase over 24 cents.

I pack in suitcases. They pack in the first vessel they can lay their hands on, plastic bag, gym bag, pillow case…whatever.

I worry about losing my wallet. They worry about losing their phones.

They believe the car when it says it has eight miles left before the tank is empty. I don’t even see numbers like that.

If I am meeting friends we will have sent emails, confirmed location and probably made a reservation if dinner is involved.  They will text their friends in the driveway and will alter their plans, change location at least twice before deciding on a destination.

I think established credibility is important. They belong to a generation that thinks market and crowd consensus is what matters.

I download apps and software that I need.  They download apps and software in order to find what they need.

I think good news can still come out of the mailbox. They think only junk resides there and never actually open it.

I think I have seen the movie when, in reality, I read the book. They think they read the book when, in reality, they watched the made-for-TV movie.

They think you cannot turn off a video game until it is over, I have no idea why.

They prefer to text, Facebook message, even email over dialing someone’s phone number to ask a question. I am getting like that, too.

They think “awkward” is the greatest social failing, a situation to be avoided at all costs. I feel the same way about “rude.”

Because of social media they still “know” everyone they have ever known. I look back and wish I could revisit moments with friends I lost track of decades ago.

Both The New York Times and Time despaired of our children this week, dismissing millennials as self-absorbed, lazy, narcissistic or as Time labeled them, “The Me, Me, Me Generation.”  But the Greatest Generation must have looked on in horror at the thought of ceding the world to the rebellious, profligate, never-experienced-hardship Boomers who wanted to reject every aspect of the social order while playing music at an ear-splitting decibel level.

As the leading edge of the millennials pass 30, I see a generation that is highly accepting of differences, comfortable with change at warp speed, values human relationships above all, despite being weaned on technology, and is innovative in the extreme.  I think we are good hands.




  1. says

    OMG I’m shaking my head in agreement. The texting of meeting places, changes, paying with a card for pretty much everything, and never seeing anything but the top of his head cos it’s always down looking at his phone or his laptop-or both. And as much as I love him, he is extremely self absorbed!

  2. says

    Oh how true this is! One of my kids texts me all day long while she is at school…for signatures, to change her pickup time, to ask me if I can do something for her. Schools used to not let them have their phones, now it seems like its not even an issue. And my two older kids seem to have moved on from Facebook…apparently that’s for older people (like me). They prefer twitter and instagram.

  3. says

    Wow, you got these right. I find that by embracing the differences I can learn some new things (like the convenience of having a GCT app so handy on my phone) and appreciate the fact that my children are becoming adults with their own identities and sense of self. Yes, sometimes they frustrate me, but I know I frustrated my parents as well, and sometimes still do.

  4. says

    All so true – and I especially laughed at the “awkward” thing. My son likes to describe anything new and different as “awkward.” I’ve told him to get over that – I think he actually listened!

    • says

      Awkward, I am learning, is the catchall phrase for almost anything undesirable. All new to me.

  5. says

    How fortunate we are to live in a time where such insignificant details differentiate the generations. I’m glad that on fundamental issues I’m on the same page as my parents and my children. Fascinating list! Thanks for compiling it.

    • says

      I could not agree with you more. I always wondered how the generation gap would morph…delighted.

  6. says

    All of this is very true; they were truly born into the digital age so I think (and I’m pretty sure research backs this up) their brains think differently. I still stumble and falter when I have to use a new technology but they adopt it seamlessly. Guess that happens when you had to create Power Point presentations in second grade! I, too, think this next generation will be just fine; and they will look back and do a fair amount of introspection once THEIR kids are in some ways totally different from them!

    • says

      Pam you are so right, it is when we consider passing the torch, that it all becomes very clear. Love that….Power Point in second grade, speaks volumes.

  7. says

    So, so true! Love the slide show (though as I’m a few years younger — last of the boomers — I honestly don’t recall some of that).
    The mention of the mailbox? Oh, yeah! My daughters make me nuts as they check their mailboxes MAYBE once a week. Crazy kids.
    Loved the post. Made me smile, made me shake my head in amazement, nod it in agreement. Thank you.

    • says

      College son #2 discovered the last week of the term that he actually had a mailbox, gives you an idea how often he checked it!

  8. says

    You had me laughing at some of these – in half I am on the other end of your gap. I’m always surprised when anyone under 70 uses cash. I love texting. I remember being in college and wearing boxer shorts as shorts; pajamas seem like a better idea than that. On the other hand, I’m all about books, mail by post, and not being rude. Thanks for the smiles this morning!

    • says

      Yes the lines do blur…but that doesn’t make for such a good post. I still use cash, a habit I am going to give up.

  9. says

    LOL Lisa. Can see my kids in all of these – the plans happening in the driveway, everything they need on their phones, and I agree with you that I think we’re in good hands. They’re such good kids – moving at the speed of light but still love to slow down for a hug and a listening ear. Yummy post.

    • says

      Ahhhh…Barb, thanks. They are yummy and I am not sure anyone would have described us that way.

  10. Carpool Goddess says

    I recently had a conversation with my offspring about the beauty of telephone conversations. I was told my ideas are antiquated. Sadly, I’m using the phone less and less for conversations other than texts and emails and it’s something I want to change. Great piece!

    • says

      I too have been told I am out of date. Offspring away for the semester used iChat, thought that was a parenting victory!

  11. Sheryl says

    Wonderful! I like to think my two boys are at an age- in their mid and late 20s- that they Re beginning to realize we can learn as much from them as they can learn from us.

  12. says

    thanks for the laughs and the faith in them. i too think we’re in good hands, different but good.

    • says

      When I think about how scary this transition must have been for our parents, I am really comforted by a generation that is not trying to reject everything we have passed to them.

  13. Regine Kelly says

    Brilliant, really. And lively, funny, rueful too.
    thanks G & F

  14. lanie says

    I hope you’re right, but I’m not so sure that things are going to be okay, or even that things are okay right now. Look what has happened since the Greatest Generation stepped down. We’re in a race to the bottom economically. Society spends its time arguing over what is “cool” and who has had their feelings hurt. One act of mass violence gets pushed out of the headlines by another.

    Certainly it’s not all bad. Technology has produced wonderful things, and there are still people who want to actually achieve something. But unfortunately, I find it hard to share your optimism.

  15. says

    True, true, true! I can always tell when I’m working with a “millennial” and I ask them if they’ve spoken to a client. They’ll proceed to tell me about the number of emails and tweets they’ve sent. Then when I ask, “And what happened when you picked up the phone and called them?” they look at me as though I’ve just spoken in a foreign language. Maybe I did.


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