You might have heard a thing or two about millennials, as well as the generation that came before them, commonly known as Generation X. While most descriptions paint some pretty stark differences between those two generations, some have noticed that people born roughly between the years of 1977 and 1985 don’t seem to fit neatly in either category.
Writing for Business Insider, Marleen Stollen and Gisella Wolf explain the problem thusly:
“The years of our birth lie between two huge generations. We had to bridge the divide between an analog childhood and digital adulthood and we are reminded of this day after day. We live with one foot in Generation X and one in Generation Y (aka millennials). This is an uncomfortable position to keep up and we aren’t fond of it.”
If Not Gen X Or Gen Y — Then What?
“Xennial” is one moniker for this microgeneration that seems to be gaining steam (xennial being a combination of Gen X and millennial). A quick Google search for “xennial” returns 318,000 results.
Love it or hate it, 'xennial' is at least better than 'old millennial,' right? https://t.co/DzuJhnvgRI
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 4, 2017
Writer Sarah Stankorb coined the term back in 2014 in a Good magazine article titled “Reasonable People Disagree about the Post-Gen X, Pre-Millennial Generation,” in which she argued that her microgeneration was “born at dawn” between “the out-all-night dark horse Gen Xers and the-sunny-still-somehow-optimistic Millennial.”
Meanwhile, the co-author of her article, Jeb Oelbaum, shared a decidedly less sunny outlook on the microgeneration, writing, “We’re not the future; we no longer demographically matter, and yet we haven’t become the establishment … Us Xennials are a sad, cynical, sorry lot. Or maybe it’s just me.”
This is perfect. I identify with point three completely #xennial pic.twitter.com/xHZcQYusl6
— Dr. Hillary Butler ︽✵︽ (@PetDocHill) June 30, 2017
Not everyone agrees on the characteristics that define a xennial nor do they even agree on the years that encompass this microgeneration. Some sources say it encompasses only those born between 1977 and 1983.
In a similar vein, there’s debate over which birth years encompass the millennial generation. An Atlantic article on the topic settled on 1982 to 2004. Others, like Nielsen, the massive data collection company, define millennials as those born between 1977 and 1995. Those born after ’95 are called Generation Z.
If you ask those born in the late ’70s and early ’80s if they feel like millennials, the answer is probably no. But they don’t quite feel like Gen X either.
What Defines A Xennial?
While the birth years of the xennial generation are up for debate, the one defining feature that seems to have some consensus is that xennials feel caught between two worlds. And the differences between them and their younger and older counterparts are apparent in their parenting styles, their politics and, perhaps most prominently, their relationships with technology.
People born during this specific time period did not grow up in world where the internet and cell phones were always there, like the millennials who came after them did. Xennials can distinctly remember when these technologies emerged.
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But unlike the older Gen-Xers, xennials adapted to new technology more quickly. For example, while xennials did not grow up with social media, they now use it with as much ease as those who did.
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“As we were growing up, technology matured along side us,” the Business Insider authors wrote. “We had time to get used to it and were still young enough to feel right at home with it.”
The authors also explain that compared to Gen-Xers, who lived through the Cold War, and millennials, who grew up during the war in Afghanistan, the xennials came of age during a relatively peaceful time in the world. (Though we’d have to argue that for families affected by the Gulf War in the early ’90s, the conflict related to that didn’t feel quite as “far away” as the authors assert).
If you were born around this time period and are wondering if you’re a xennial, there is a fun quiz from The Guardian that can help you answer that question!
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the origins of the term “xennial” were murky with some credit misattributed to a professor named Dan Woodman. Writer Sarah Stankorb coined the term in 2014 in a Good article. We regret the error.