Millennials get a bad rap for being entitled, lazy, immature, obsessed with selfies and social media, and so on. They’re associated with the rise of the internet and smartphones and resulting cultural outcroppings of these technological advancements. But generational distinctions are imprecise and subject to debate, and what we typically consider to be Millennials actually contains a subsection of somewhat older Millennials that are culturally distinct from their younger brethren.
Sandwiched between Gen-Xers and Millennials, ‘Xennials’ are typically classified as those being born between 1977 and 1985. They’re a microgeneration that copes with the clash between Gen-X’s cynicism and Millennial optimism.
Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996 and Gen-Xers were born between 1965 and 1980. The term ‘Xennial’ to describe the generation on the cusp of the two first appeared in GOOD magazine as a way to define the older Millennials who shared a different experience than the rest of the generation growing up.
According to Notable Life,
The term is a solution to recent complaints by “mature millennials” that they don’t feel as though they fit the avocado-eating, Snapchat-loving mold of the endlessly dissected generation — but also don’t really remember the first Star Wars movies.
Xennials had an analog childhood before riding the digital wave into the 21st century. Xennials were fully aware of the shifting technological landscape, going from a time when the internet didn’t exist, to suffering through the dial-up era, to embracing the latest social media platforms. They were also in early adulthood during the September 11th terrorist attacks, while many Millennials were still in elementary and high school.
Xennials are also called “the Oregon Trail Generation” because of how widespread the educational game was in the “cutting-edge” computer labs they had in elementary and high school.
There are plenty of things Xennials remember that are just fuzzy memories to Millennials. Things like pay phones, landlines, and sitting through countless 1-800-COLLECT commercials.
The landline wars were intense until cell phones came along, and Xennials remember having to talk to their friends’ parents on the phone before reaching their friends. Call waiting and extra phone lines were godsends for the Xennial generation.
And watching Jurassic Park in theaters and memorizing Clueless.
Mean Girls may be the defining women’s movie for Millennials, but Xennial women grew up watching Clueless on repeat at slumber parties. And the cutting-edge computer-generated dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were truly revolutionary on the big screen. Goonies, Heathers and Dazed And Confused were also seminal Xennial coming-of-age movies.
Being a little too old for Pokémon and Neopets.
These pop culture phenomena took off a little too late to get Xennials on board.
Getting that first clunky cell phone in their teens or 20s that was “for emergencies.”
Ah, those indestructible Nokia phones! Before Temple Run and Candy Crush, Xennials killed time by trying to beat their high score on Snake.
Coping with T9 texting was a real struggle for Xennials.
Sure, Millennials are the generation that turned texting into an artform, but Xennials were the pioneers who had to really work to make texting happen.
And connecting with friends on AIM changed Xennial social life.
Online chat application like AOL’s Instant Messenger and ICQ allowed young Xennials to socialize online for the first time.
Looking things up in encyclopedias, and later, Encarta is an experience every Xennial remembers.
Xennials went to school before web-based reference sources like Wikipedia, and many still remember having to use the card catalog at the library.
And the hole in the ozone layer and acid rain were the most critical environmental threats.
Before global warming reached a boiling point, acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer were some of the biggest man-made threats to life on earth.
Xennials will remember when this was the hottest boy band around.
Xennials loved Back Street Boys and N’Sync, but the New Kids On The Block were the original boy band.
And trying to hit “record” at the exact right time to snag the song of the moment off of the radio to make your crush that mixtape was a Xennial thing.
Well before MP3s became a thing, CDs were a welcome change for Xennials, who grew up with cassettes and top-40 radio stations that had actual human DJs.
Also MTV showed mostly music videos.
Today, MTV hosts a raft of original programming, but Xennials remember a time when you could tune in to MTV and either see a music video or a VJ introducing one.
And the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase and double murder trial divided America on racial lines.
It was called the “Trial Of The Century” and helped launch the Kardashian’s father to fame (or infamy). News coverage of the double murder trial was non-stop and his acquittal rocked the nation.
Xennials also remember when Columbine was the first and only shocking school shooting.
Long before the current epidemic of gun violence plaguing U.S. schools, the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado shocked the country. Ask a Xennial and they can probably tell you where they were when they heard the news.