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Donovan Watkis | A guide to the generations

Published:Wednesday | November 1, 2017 | 12:00 AM

There has been some banter among social media users about the role of each generation in society. To help to provide clarity, I offer a guide on how labels came about and the cultural norms that charaterise each generation.

The first generation to get a label were the baby boomers. These are people now approaching retirement. They were born in the decade following the end of World War II. They are from a time when transportation, mail, and messages were much slower. They utilised less power while growing up and were more content with their portion. Their rituals included going to church and celebrating the virtues of industrial work and suffering to gain peace with God.

The following generation are those called Generation X, born roughly between 1963-1980 now aged between early-30s to mid-40s. They are often labelled the 'slacker generation' by the generation before. They are often viewed by baby boomers as being uncommitted. They question society's constructs and are the products of stricter, more conservative parents, so they are quick to go into victim mode and hardly take responsibility for their actions.




The succeeding generation is the Generation Y, more commonly called the millennials. Many were born between 1981 and 1994 - the information age. They are called millennials because they came of age at the end of one millennium and the beginning of another. They are gifted with new experiences every day because of new avenues to share their culture, like hip hop music and computers. Only a generation ago, persons were more focused on staying in their ethnic groups and political parties, but millennials pride themselves on being able to think for themselves and connect with people whose thoughts are different from their own. As a result,they invent new and interesting ways to share information all the time through avenues that were virtually impossible a few years earler.

It is not all lost for this generation, however. They are the dreamers who dared and are prepared to either fail or succeed in a major way.




The Generation Zs are those born between 1995-2009. They are now approaching their early 20s and are the trendsetters. This is the era where everyone was logging on to the world wide web and using data more efficiently. Everything is experienced at a faster pace in this generation, including their music, their speech, messages, wi-fi and their fashion. The most diverse and wide-ranging generation, according to a study by the Center for Generational Kinetics, the Gen Z is shaping up to be the 'Throwback Generation'. The study found that they are exhibiting attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour that combine their tech-saturated world with elements of generations past. They are already technology-driven and more exposed to sex, alcohol, drugs and tertiary-level information in real time. They are often labelled superficial because their parents made them get away with much more, and they received more toys if they cried hard enough.

Last is the Generation Alpha. I discovered this label in the Sydney Sun Times. They were born 2010 and beyond. It has been predicted, according to the Sydney Sun Times, that they will be the most formally educated generation in history, beginning school earlier and studying longer. Like the Generation Zs, they are the children of older, wealthier parents with fewer siblings. They are already being labelled materialistic. I think they will change the world and live happier. All of my children are in this generation and my eldest son, who is six, is reading at the level I was reading in college.

Each succeeding generation came into the world with a desire to make it better. It is not enough to only cast blame or avoid working with the other because of philosophical differences.

I believe we all can learn from each other if we would take the time to understand each other.

- Donovan Watkis is an author and film-maker. Send feedback to and