I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of generations, but since I learned about a year ago that I’m not considered by most to be a millennial (I was born in 2000), I’ve been thinking a lot about how the currently recognized ones are defined. For a while I’ve theorized that there’s a generation in between millennials and “Gen Z”, spanning roughly 1997 to 2001, which I like to call Generation Delta.
The idea emerged because I see disparities between the childhood of people my age and a few years older and people only a few years younger than me. You could argue that the timeframe is too short to constitute its own generation, but I think that its briefness is in fact its defining characteristic. People born within about that timeframe have experienced more radical and rapid change during their first ten to fifteen years of life than possibly the youth of 100 years ago, or at least the Greatest Generation. This is where the name I came up with derives from: the uppercase Greek letter delta (Δ) is used in science to represent values measuring change.
If you think I’m being hyperbolic, think about what happened from 2000 to 2016: 9/11 and the War on Terror, the rapid development of the internet, and subsequently the rise of smartphones and social media, the Great Recession, the landmark 2008 election and equally historic but less celebrated 2016 election—and I’m sure I’m missing some things. Now we’re facing a global pandemic and a second recession, and I think this is possibly the best marker for the generation. The sitution poses as much of a threat to the future of people my age as the Great one did to people 11 years ago. Students in high school, meanwhile, are facing a whole different set of issues: my younger brother has spent the final two quarters of his high school career on home instruction, and likely won’t get an in-person graduation. And younger people will have this as a childhood memory, the way that, say, New Yorkers my age remember Hurricane Sandy, or how New Yorker millennials remember 9/11.
Most generations have had defining characteristics, and the main one of this generation is confusion and disorientation. You can start from the fact that most of us didn’t know we weren’t millennial until a year or two ago, along with the craziness of the rapid changes that I’ve mentioned already. For example, there was resistance to TikTok in its original incarnation as Musical.ly, when it consisted nearly entirely of tweens and early teens dancing to corny pop songs. There’s a pervading nostalgia for things that happened only ten years ago—look up “2000’s nostalgia” or “90’s kids remember” and you’ll see what I mean.
Politically we tend to be leftist, with socialism being particularly popular, and if you’re not on the left you’re part of the Ben Shapiro-ite, PragerU- and YAF-led, sophomorically intellectual high-horse conservative crowd. But like millennials (and even Generation X as depicted in Douglas Coupland’s novel, one of my favorites), we hate the Boomers.
Really this is just a variation on the concept of “Cuspers”, the phenomenon that gave us the term “Xennials”. Still, I think it’s important to distinguish the demographic from the younger kids who came after, since the divide between those of us who grew up with Newgrounds and YouTube from those who grew up with Vine and TikTok.