It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … Generation X?

Posted On August 14, 2017

Dust off that cape, Generation X. No, not that one. The other one. The one with the big S on it.

You’re being called upon to save the country. From millennials.

In a recent piece for the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Hennessey ticked off all the usual criticisms of the “participation trophy generation” – entitled, tech-dependent, impatient, undisciplined, obsessed with political correctness. He then closes by essentially saying the last line of defense against a country steeped in these millennial vices is Generation X.

No pressure, my fellow slackers. The world needs a hero, but you’ll do.

I don’t know about the rest of you Gen-Xers, but I’ve got my own problems. Like planning for retirement — an endeavor in which most Gen-Xers are well behind the curve, as Hennessey rightly notes. And saving for my children’s college educations, which he fails to note at all.

On the other hand, maybe it’s true only a Gen-Xer could be Superman. We’re the only generation old enough to know what a phone booth is and young enough to still possibly pull off wearing tights.

Hennessey urges Generation X to push back against the spreading millennial influence “by reasserting the relevance of the flesh-and-blood world.” On an individual level, he says, this means “putting the iPhone down, turning off the computer and taking a book out of the library or visiting the museum.” On a larger, societal level, it means “adopting a healthy skepticism of millennials’ efforts to disrupt every industry with technology and an ethos of ‘sharing.’ It means fighting for your privacy.”

That’s all well and good, but I can speak for one Gen-Xer who is already doing most of those things. Yes, I probably still spend too much time on smartphones and computers (who among us doesn’t?), but I check out my books from the library and visit museums regularly. I value face-to-face interactions with people, and encourage my children to do the same – another charge Hennessey makes of us. I have plenty of skepticism of technology. I guard my privacy as much as possible in a digital world.

None of that is going to change the fact that technology is here to stay. It is already a central component in practically every workplace in the country, in one form or another, and its influence is only going to grow.

It doesn’t matter how many books I check out from the library or how many museums I visit. It won’t pull one millennial head up from its attendant smartphone. It’s worthwhile and commendable to keep the “old ways” alive and remind millennials of the pleasures of the offline world, but it won’t change the future.

The future is already here. Instead of trying to hold off an onrushing generation, we can better spend our time by focusing on where and how we can adapt. Which technologies should we embrace and which can we safely ignore? Some of them will make our lives easier and our bottom line more profitable. Others are just clutter.

Live as you like and let millennials do the same. You don’t need a cape to check out a book from the library. And thanks to that dastardly technology, we no longer need a phone booth for anything.

Categories: Generation X, Generations, Workplace