9 Things That Define Generation X (Besides Being ‘Between’)

Gen Xers are wedged in between the baby boomers and millennials, but they're certainly not wallflowers, especially when it comes to defending their kids.

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I was born right on the cusp of Generation X, defined by the Center for Generational Kinetics as those born from 1965 to 1976. Many of us born in that generation — wedged between the better known and larger groups of baby boomers and millennials — typically returned home from school to empty houses while Mom and Dad were working. (Also, Gen Xers were more likely than any preceding generation to have divorced parents.) We relied on ourselves to decide what to watch on TV, did the household chores, decided when to do homework and were basically left to our own devices.

That common experience is among factors leading to certain distinct characteristics among Gen Xers — or so the thinking goes. Check out these traits that experts associate with Generation X, and see if you recognize a Gen Xer you know.

1. Obsessed with social media

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We hear a lot about millennials’ social media addiction, but a study by Nielsen reported in the New York Times found Generation X spends more time on social media than its younger counterparts. A Gen Xer spends on average six hours and 58 minutes per week on social media, the study found. That compares with the six hours and 19 minutes spent on average by millennials. In contrast, adults ages 50 and over spend four hours and nine minutes per week on social media.

2. Prefer not to work in groups

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Gen Xer’s grew up independent –- many are still latchkey kids at heart -– so they’re usually not ones to choose to work in groups, reported Fortune. They prefer to work alone and are less likely to engage with colleagues. If your boss is a Gen Xer, the report advises:

X-ers tend to be hands-off, low face-time managers. So when working for an X-er, ask them to clearly define their expectations.

3. Quick to intervene as parents

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When these Gen X “security moms” and “committed dads” swing into action, they intervene even more than baby boomers, whose hovering often earned them the nickname “helicopter parents,” reported to the American Association of School Administrators. The report noted:

Web junkies, they will monitor Edline and Blackboard sites nightly, send e-mails to school board members, trade advice on blogs and look up teacher credentials. Flex workers, they will juggle schedules to monitor their kids’ activities in person. Speedy multitaskers, they will quickly switch their kids into — or take them out of — any situation according to their assessment of their youngsters’ interests.

4. Can’t hide skepticism

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Gen Xer’s, in many ways, raised themselves. They’re geared toward skepticism and question everything. Don’t be surprised if they continually weigh the pros and cons before making decisions, reported AdWeek. The magazine also reported on a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business that noted members of Generation X “are pessimistic, skeptical, disillusioned with almost everything and are very questioning of conventionality.”

5. Pretty darn patriotic

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Generation X members may be skeptical, but don’t think for a minute that means they don’t care about their homeland. More than half of respondents in this age group — 64 percent — said the phrase “a patriotic person” described them very well, reported the Pew Research Center. That’s healthy margin over the millennials surveyed who said the same thing (49 percent), though a smaller share than baby boomers (75 percent).

6. They question authority

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Members of Generation X grew up taking care of themselves while their parents were working. Perhaps that’s why they continually question authority, especially when the authority affects their own children, according to Edutopia. They do not want their children to endure the hands-off parental involvement they experienced, according to the report. On the other hand, members of Generation X respect the experience and skills of their superiors at work and are taken aback by millennials’ lack of deference toward those supervisors, reported Psychology Today.

7. As parents, inclined to attack, strategically

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Generation X parents aren’t helicopter parents, but they are not afraid to attack if something seems to impinge on their children’s well-being, reported the American Association of School Administrators. If they aren’t satisfied with the response, they will go to higher authorities, according to the report.

8. Don’t thrive when micromanaged

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Members of Generation X grew up largely on their own, so they don’t do well when they are micromanaged, reported The Balance. But that doesn’t mean they are unyielding. Members of the generation are tolerant of alternative lifestyles, ambitious and excited to learn.

9. Technologically adept

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Gen Xers didn’t start life swiping a touch screen, but they more or less grew up with computers and learned their tech skills as the technology evolved. That sets them apart from many baby boomers, especially those on the older end, who tend to be more frustrated with constant technological change. Here’s how The Balance describes them, in a look at how they fit into the legal profession:

The first generation to grow up with computers, technology is inextricably woven into their lives. As law firms and corporate legal departments integrate new technological tools, this generation has learned and adapted. A common characteristic of Gen Xers is their comfort level with PDAs, smartphones, email, laptops, tablets and other technology employed in the legal workplace.

Are you a Gen Xer or dealing with one? Share your thoughts in the comments area below or on our Facebook page.

Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham @NancyDWrites

Nancy Dunham is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

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