Generation COVID-19: How Each Generation is Affected
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
In our hyper-partisan world, it has become evident that half the country is "over here," and the other half is "over there." Our country has never been more divided, at least in my lifetime. When you think of societal division, you immediately go to politics. It's all about Far Right vs. Far Left with a good percentage of the U.S, like me, somewhere in between. It seems like common sense has flown out the window because the mainstream media chooses one side or the other, and they love to stir up their base. This 24-7 highly publicized political decisiveness has trained us to look at everything as black or white. In my book, GENERATION EVERYONE! A Guide to Generational Harmony at Work, School, and Home, I point out the stereotypes each of the five generations active in our economy have earned, warranted or not. Millennials created the popular social media hashtag, #OkBoomer last year to call out Baby Boomers on everything from wasteful spending to destroying the environment. Boomers fired back with claims that Millennials and Gen Z are lazy, entitled, and narcissistic. You can decide for yourself who is right and who is wrong. You will find in my book that we are more alike than we are different. Now we have COVID-19, and everything about it has been politicized. Everyone is looking for someone or something to blame. Even the generations have been blaming each other for the spread of the Pandemic. Early on, Millennials seemed unfazed by the Pandemic, tweeting #BoomerRemover, referring to the early data that showed those over 65 were the most susceptible and the younger peeps were immune. Boomers watched young people on television in horror partying shoulder-to-shoulder on the beach at Spring Break daring COVID-19 to get them. Eight weeks later, things have gotten serious with all schools closed, and most of us confined to our small center of influence. It is clear now that no generation is immune to the Coronavirus. During my quarantine, I've had "A LOT" of time to think about how each generation if dealing with the Pandemic and how it may eternally change them. These are just observations from a guy who obsesses over generational harmony and engagement, so here it goes.
Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 Boomers begrudgingly accepted new technology over the years with emails, smartphones, and social media. Over the past five years, Boomers have embraced social media, especially as a way to stay connected with kids and grandkids. 68% of Boomers are on Facebook regularly, and they are the fastest-growing generation in the medium. It's a good thing because face timing and "Zooming" is what they have had to do to stay connected with everyone while sheltering in place as the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Boomers are even trying technology-based delivery services like Instacart, DoorDash, and others. They are learning how to stream videos on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Netflix has gained 16 million new subscribers, four times the estimated Q1 growth projections. Many of their new subscribers are Boomers. They rejoiced when they found every old movie from their childhood was all there waiting for them to watch and remember "the good old days." Technology can be scary at first. Now Boomers are forced to adapt, and guess what? They like it. When this is behind us, Boomers will likely continue using these platforms. Generation X: Born 1965-1980 I'm proud to be a member of Gen X, the Forgotten Generation because we are good with change and just "go with the flow." We were the first generation of divorce, the latchkey kids. We all had three-to-five hours every afternoon to run around the neighborhood, break things, and figure out how to fix them before Mom or Dad got home. We are masters at entertaining ourselves. Stay at home and binge watch every season of Friends? Sign me up. Those of us who are business leaders have seen our share of economic challenges in our careers, including 9/11, the Dot Com Crash, the Great Recession of 2008, and now a Global Pandemic. For the most part, Gen X'ers are in or entering the time in their career where they should be getting close to the corner office and finding their Boomer bosses are postponing retirement leaving many of us stuck on a ledge. COVID-19 may have been the last foot in the back of Gen X middle management, with many succumbing to furloughs and layoffs that may not offer a way to return. Gen Xers are already the generation responsible for the most startups choosing to provide their expertise and talents to a variety of clients instead of starting over in another corporate gig. I think COVID-19 may accelerate this trend creating a massive corporate brain drain. Gen X may be forgotten, but we are independent. We are survivors, and we will be fine. Millennials-Gen Y: Born 1981-1998 The oldest Millennial just crossed into their forties. Unlike other generations, there is a big difference between the youngest and oldest. As I write in my book, Millennials have been unjustly ridiculed over the past decade, blamed for "killing" entire industries. Like every generation, Millennials are the way they are because of the way they were raised. We all have different generational signposts that shape our attitudes and values. Timing hasn't been kind to Millennials. They entered the workforce in the middle of the Great Recession of 2008, finding it hard to find employment to help pay off crushing college debt. Now they find themselves in the prime of their career with a global economic shutdown. However, in between those challenges, they have had the luxury of building their early careers in an economic boom. Historically low unemployment rates allowed them to be selective on where and when they work, allowing them to job hop if they were not completely satisfied. Some economists credit Millennials for creating the gig economy that is now helping Gen X as well. With COVID-19, everything has changed. Jobs will be much harder to find. Millennials will focus more on savings and stability versus job satisfaction. Those who have favored job-hopping over building a reliable, professional network may find it especially challenging to get back on track post Pandemic. Gen Z: Born after 1999 I think the most significant change for Gen Z will center around education. The youngest of Gen Z is in middle and high school, which is shuttered for the rest of the year. Their Millennial and Gen X parents have all been turned into homeschool teachers overnight. They were not prepared to take over their child's education while trying to work from home to pay the bills. GenZ's comfort with social media has kept them close to their friends, although this generation as a whole is trending back to a craving for more person-to-person connections. Gen Z College students have also been sent home to complete their studies online. This generation was already starting to question the value of higher education. They will soon discover their comfort with technology, and distance learning will help them complete classes much faster and on their schedule. This disruption will further deepen GenZ's skepticism of a traditional college education and whether it is worth $50,000 in debt to get that piece of paper. My biggest concern with Gen Z is their mental health due to the "fear factor." This generation already experiences the most stress, anxiety, and depression. A recent "Stress in America" study showed 75% of Gen Z's biggest fear was being shot at school. Now they have to worry about getting a virus that can kill you from anyone and everything they touch. All of this "fear" gets amplified through their social media feeds and 24-7 news channels. They can't get away from it. Every generation is dealing with the Pandemic in their own way. When the COVID-19 infection and death rates slow down, the world will be different. We will never go back to the way it was; we will be creating a "new normal." We are Americans, and we are resilient. As every brand TV commercial says, we are all in this together, and we will get through it no matter generation or political affiliation.
Looking for some good COVID-19 quarantine reading? Check out my book, GENERATION EVERYONE! A Guide to Generational Harmony @ Work, School & Home.