A few weeks ago, my Facebook feed was awash with posts from school and University friends. “We’re Xennials!” they claimed — a micro generation born between 1977 and 1983, much reported in the media. But what is a Xennial?
Apparently, we’re a bunch that’s a mix between the pessimists of Generation X and the optimistic millennials. Whatever. I’m not always a fan of putting people in ‘generation’ boxes.
Perhaps that’s because as a Generation X-er I just don’t buy into that particular label. How could someone born in the early-to-mid sixties really have anything ‘generational’ in common with me, let alone my younger brother, who was born in the early eighties?
But I found this whole ‘micro’ generation concept resonated with me. As the Guardian reports, Xennials were old enough to have lived a childhood free of the internet, but young enough to have spent their working lives online.
And suddenly, being labelled a Xennial makes my behaviour towards technology make sense too. Despite my 18 years in tech PR, I’m perceived as somewhat of a laggard in my personal tech by colleagues.
But I’m just not striving for the seamless, connected, always-on technology experience they are. You see, I still long for the technology simplicity of the 1980s in today’s digitally-led world.
‘Woah, hang on there’, I can hear the Millennials cry. ‘Smartphones, on-demand content, an app for everything — it’s technology utopia in 2017’! But allow me to explain.
Life in the 1980s was, in fact, incredibly simple when it came to technology and communication. The telephone on the hall table was used to make a call. Your camera was used to take photos. The TV showed TV programmes. Your Walkman played music.
Ok, ok, yes, it took five minutes to call your friend using the phone dial, and the film in the camera had to be posted off ‘to be processed’ (and that took about four weeks), and changing TV channel without a remote control was a bore. But every device served one purpose and had one clear ‘raison d’être’.
And I’ve realised that rather than being a laggard, with a reluctance to move into the 21st Century, I’ve actually just been striving to retain all of the simplicity of my childhood and applying that to my digital world.
I have a DAB radio to play radio stations. I have a connected TV to watch films and box sets. I have a smartphone, a laptop and a tablet (one for making calls/sending texts, one for working, one for checking emails and doing the odd bit of shopping). I have a kindle for reading books, a sat nav system for the car, a digital camera for family holidays…
Of course, none of this technology really works together. And this expanding collection sits alongside all the things from the 1980s and 1990s that I’ve failed to manage without. It’s suddenly very clear why my ‘everyday bag’ is the size of a large suitcase.
So it’s easy to spot me if you’re passing a Costa in and around London. I’m the one sitting at a table strewn with a laptop, headphones, a notepad and pen, my mini Filofax and propelling pencil, a smartphone (likely on the calculator function), and a copy of the newspaper to dip into the crossword later…