By Stephen Trask, MT, and Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed.
It was marked by high divorce rates and video games, this generation of independent kids who learned to care for and entertain themselves while mom or dad worked long hours. Generally thought to be born between 1965 and 1979, the generation, marked X, mashed between Baby Boomers and Millennials, was made up by what Boomers considered “slackers.” But this view no longer goes unchallenged.
In “Short-Changed: In Defense of Generation X,” author Christine Henseler says, “We were the generation of change, changing the dynamics between the self, society and technology, between the fixed and the fluid, the local and global as determined by the fall of walls (the Berlin Wall) and political powers (Communism), and the erasure of (technological) borders. We became some of the greatest agents of change on individual, cultural, social, political, and economic levels. We were at the center of the technological ®evolution.”
Arguably, hours of solitude with pervasive technology were bound to bring forth a unique group of visionaries who still work best independently. Latchkey kids were not playing in large groups or teaming up in massive multiplayer online games. They mostly competed with themselves and faceless scores, numbers by which they measured their success. Or they played with one or two others. Because of this solo or small group mentality, Gen Xers nurtured their individuality.
Gen Xers are considered the first tech generation. Kirk Baird says in “Two decades of people, events, and trends that shaped Gen X-ers,” “…we grew up with video games, came of age with the personal computer, jumped on the information superhighway when it opened, via dial-up, and helped to drive the dot.com bubble of the mid-’90s…”
Generation X has been underestimated, evidenced at least by the number of technological innovators who grew the web into what it is today: Jeff Bezos, born in 1964, founded Amazon.com; YouTube Co-Founders, Chad Hurley, Steven Shih Chen and Jawed Karim were born in 1976, 1978 and 1979 (all three former Paypal employees); Brad Greenspan (born 1975), Chris DeWolfe (born 1966) and Tom Anderson (born 1970) first oversaw MySpace. The creator of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, was born in 1976; and Jimmy Wales (born 1966) and Larry Sanger (born 1968) brought the world Wikipedia.
Gen Xers have become leaders, not just because of their creativity and innovation, but because they are experienced while retaining youthful energy. In “The Zuck Distortion: Young Entrepreneurs Need Gen X, And Vice-Versa,” Huffington Post’s Ted Zoller says “Members of Generation X now have the social power. It is their time in the sun. They are at the top of their game. This is their professional pinnacle. They are ready to invest. They are leading our greatest companies.”
It is clear Generation X’s reputation is still evolving, as the group’s achievements continue to pile up. The end results have yet to be tallied, and it will be interesting to read how history records their accomplishments. In the meantime, there are thinkers such as Gerlinda Grimes who writes, “Behind the mass-media stereotypes, Gen-Xers were (and still are) quietly changing the world.”
Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed., is a writer and editor. She is CEO of All Things Writing, LLC.