“Xennial”? That’s me!

The hilarious Jessica from "Fresh Off The Boat."
The hilarious Jessica from “Fresh Off the Boat.”

One thing I’ve noticed about this decade — the “teens” — is how old I suddenly feel.
This year and last year, I’ve realized that many of my favorite movies and albums are five, 10 or 20 years old, and I wonder, “How on Earth did THAT happen?!”
I’m also stunned when it’s the 10th or 20th anniversary of a pivotal moment in my childhood or adolescence. I’m both moved by remembering how things such as the Oklahoma City bombing affected me as a 14-year-old and disheartened by thinking about what 14-year-olds today — and their parents! — have to deal with.

I suppose that’s part of the plight of being an “Xennial” — a term I wish I had come up with that describes people born in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Not quite Generation X and not quite Millennial, we Xennials managed to make it through much of our childhoods and even our college years without a lot of technology beyond TV and early video games. We had computers at school but not necessarily at home, and if you’re like me, your first cellphone was a college graduation gift from your parents. (I didn’t own a smartphone until last year, and I didn’t join Facebook until I started graduate school — it wasn’t even an option when I was in college.)

As Anna Garvey astutely writes, growing up before the dawn of social media definitely had its advantages:

Those born in the late 70s and early 80s were the last group to have a childhood devoid of all the technology that makes childhood and adolescence today pretty much the worst thing imaginable.  We were the last gasp of a time before sexting, Facebook shaming, and constant communication.

She notes that our relationship to technology is also more nuanced than that of our older and younger siblings:

Because we had one foot in the traditional ways of yore and one foot in the digital information age, we appreciate both in a way that other generations don’t.

My newest favorite TV show, “Fresh Off the Boat,” which takes place in the mid-1990s, does a great job of helping me appreciate my middle school and early high school years, when people still read print magazines and books and used electric typewriters and when families still watched TV together in the same room. (Of course, it also offers some fantastic social commentary on race and the immigrant experience while being utterly hilarious, so you should be watching it if you aren’t already.)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thankful that I can write papers on a laptop now, rather than a bulky desktop, and I’m also grateful for being able to send e-mails from my iPhone instead of the standalone computer kiosks that I had to rely on in college. But, it’s also good to remember the pleasures of life away from a screen — and to encourage the younger generations to experience them too.

(Image courtesy Tumblr)

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