There was a time when I thought if our son shrugged his right shoulder and muttered “whatever” in a dismissive tone just one more time, I would go stark raving mad. As it turns out, it was just a teenage “thing,” and he (thankfully!) moved past it.
I know that memory can be a convenient thing, but I honestly do not remember giving my parents such a response. I may have rolled my eyes (when their backs were turned), but I’m confident I would not have lived past such a flip response as “whatever” to an inquiry form either of them.
It turns out there are some differences between the many generations as regards communication.
The Greatest Generation began in 1910 and ended in 1924. The Silent Generation began in 1925 and ended in 1945. These folks also survived the Great Depression and many had direct involvement in WWII. These two generations gave birth to the massive Baby Boomer group — beginning at 1946 and ending in 1964.
These three generations share a number of positive characteristics — strong work ethics, family values, determination and will power, and a strong need to save money. Communication tendencies in these generations underscore courtesy and politeness. But it turns out that significant changes started with Baby Boomers. Boomers were instrumental in the political and social changes that began in the 1960’s — changes that affected politics, equal rights, social mores, and more. We may not have said, “whatever,” to our parents, but we communicated pretty powerfully in other ways.
Newer generations (Gen X, Xennials, Millenials, and iGen) were born into a time and place where technology is developing daily. They seem to have a phone or “device” in their hands at all times. They prefer text, Instagram, or other social media as primary forms of communication. Email, to them, is “formal” writing.
There are good things about the younger generations. New studies have shown that they tend to exhibit more care for others and are respectful and inclusive of diversity. This is great news for all of us Boomers who are getting older! Young folks today also feel closer to their parents than previous generations, which is a great thing.
Today’s teens, however, also seem to have poorer emotional health (according to psychologist Jean Twenge in her newest book). This is directly linked to the saturation in their lives of mobile technology and social media. This media, though intended to “connect” people, actually tends to make teens more lonely and anxious.
Just as there are differences between the generations, there are also similarities. Each generation rebelled against the earlier ones, or the one that “raised them.” And each generation wants to feel connected to others. So whether we use email, texting, social media, or family dinners, every person wants to use the means they have to be “with” other people.
I guess a shoulder shrug is not much different than an eye roll. The gestures used to communicate “I’m a teenager” are really only passing things.
Thank goodness! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.