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27 October 2017

Apparently I am a xennial now – where will this end?

Do I even exist if I’m not part of an ill-defined category that enables advertisers to sell me things?

By Ed jefferson

I woke this morning to find that I’d transformed, in my bed, into a “xennial”. What did I do to deserve this? I was so sure I was a millennial. I love narcissism, entitlement and earning less than previous generations.

“Well, actually If you read most of the definitions on Wikipedia…” I’ve found myself vehemently, aimlessly, arguing against claims that, since I’m headed into my mid-thirties, I am too old to make the cut. But according to some recent marketing think, I was wrong all along. It seems I’m a xennial – a newly discovered generation of people born in the decade between the last true Gen Xers and the first of the “pure” millennials.

The concept of the xennial has been around for a while – the term first appeared in a 2014 article by Sarah Stankorb and Jed Oelbaum, and it’s not the only label that’s been attached to the idea. Less likely, albeit US-centric suggestions have included Generation Catalano, named for Jared Leto’s regrettably career-launching role as Jordan Catalano in teen drama My So-Called Life, and the Oregon Trail Generation, because it consists of people the right age to have died of simulated dysentery in the American educational computer game Oregon Trail. (What the precise British equivalents should be is left as an exercise for readers of the right age to argue about: the “Granny’s Garden” generation? generation “Game On”? “The Other Grange Hill Theme” cohort?)

Some of my fellow xennials are overjoyed by their new status because it means they’re no longer lumped in with the boring old farts of Generation X nor the egotistical snowflake millennials. Being a xennial is great because no one’s been a xennial, or at least no one’s cared about anyone being a xennial, long enough to come up with anything particularly disparaging about us or share any TED talk-style wisdom about “The Xennial Problem” on LinkedIn.

Until such time as that happens, there’s ample space for the reborn xennial to identify every one of our banal experiences as important, so long as it was shared with enough people born in roughly the same ten-year period as us. And of course, engage with brands, who, according to a report from marketing firm J Walter Thompson, should already be working out which type of xennial I am – “Corporate Warrior”? “Holistic Healer”? I hope I am not a “New Adult Festivalgoer”, which sounds exhausting.

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But just as I thought I finally had a handle on who I really am, the rug has been pulled out from under me again: it turns out I’m not a xennial after all. I was born in 1984, and most definitions of this new “micro-generation” include only those born between 1977 and 1983. So maybe I’m not quite a millennial, but I’m also not quite a xennial either. Who am I? Where do I belong? Do I even exist if I’m not part of an ill-defined category that enables advertisers to sell things to me in a marginally more efficient way?

There might be some hope for me yet, because xennial isn’t the only one of these “new micro-generations” – earlier this year PR firm Ketchum gave us the “GenZennial”, covering the crossover point between millennials and the up-and-coming Generation Z. I expect they love apps, memes, and maybe swiping?

So am I just part of an as yet undiscovered micro-micro-generation of people born in 1984? A mixennial? A xemillial? An Orwellial? Given the vast quantity of information online advertisers now collect on us, maybe this generational “fracturing” will continue, until we’re all left alone in our own one-person generations, intimately conversing with brands who know our moods, whims, and exactly how much time we spend on the toilet to eight decimal places.

Still, unless we’re going to start seeing headlines like “The 10 things all employers need to know about hiring Douglas Ian Smith from Croydon”, maybe in the future we’ll at least be spared some of the patronising thinkpieces. Until then: Orwellials are best and all you other generations can absolutely do one.