We’ve all heard about millennials, and 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 millenials]. This is an uncomfortable position to keep up and we aren’t fond of it.”
If Not Gen X Or Gen Y—Then What?
Well, now there is a new term floating around to describe this so-called “microgeneration.” These folks are now being referred to as xennials (a combination of Gen X and millennial).
Love it or hate it, 'xennial' is at least better than 'old millennial,' right? http://go.redirectingat.com/?id=88890X1542043&url=https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FDzuJhnvgRI
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 4, 2017
No one really knows when or where the term “xennial” was originally coined. In the past, Australian sociologist Dan Woodman was credited with coming up with the name to describe this “in-between” generation. But others have disputed that claim, such as author Sarah Stankorb who says she first used the term in an essay for the magazine Good.
While the origins of the term may be up for debate, one thing’s for sure: It has struck a nerve. A quick Google search for “xennial” returns 318,000 results. Not everyone agrees on the characteristics that define a xennial, nor do they even agree on the years that encompass this “microgeneration,” with some sources saying it’s more like 1977 to 1983.
In a similar vein, there’s debate over which birth years encompass the millenial generation. An Atlantic article on the topic settled on 1982-2004. Others, like Nielsen, the massive data collection company, define millenials as those born between 1977-1995 with those born after ’95 called Generation Z.
If you ask those born in the late ’70s and early ’80s if they feel like millenials, 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, in their politics and, perhaps most prominently, in 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.
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.
“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 had 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!