Xennials (also known as the Oregon Trail Generation and Generation Catalano) are the micro-generation of people on the cusp of the Generation X and Millennial demographic cohorts. Researchers and popular media use birth years from the late 1970s to early 1980s or as late as 1985 as their defining range. Xennials are described as having had an analog childhood and a digital adulthood.
In 2017, Xennial was included in Merriam-Webster's "Words We're Watching" section, which discusses new words which are increasingly being used, but which do not yet meet criteria for a dictionary entry.
Terminology and birth year definitions
The neologistic term Xennials is a portmanteau blending the words Generation X and Millennials to describe a "micro-generation" or "cross-over generation" of people whose birth years are between the late 1970s and the early to mid 1980s.
Xennials was reported to be first created and used in a September 2014 article in GOOD magazine written by freelance writer Sarah Stankorb and then-GOOD Magazine staff writer Jed Oelbaum. Good magazine has described Xennials as "a micro-generation that serves as a bridge between the disaffection of Gen X and the blithe optimism of Millennials". Dan Woodman, an Australian sociologist, was credited by the Australian media with inventing it, but said he did not coin it. Jed Oelbaum credits Sarah Stankorb with the term. The earliest traced usage is the 2014 Good article, which Stankorb pitched to Good, including the term Xennial. In its Words We're Watching series, Merriam-Webster Dictionary credited Stankorb with coining the term.
In 2018, Business Insider described Xennials as people who don't feel like a Generation Xer or a Millennial, using birth dates between 1977 and 1985. "In internet folklore, xennials are those born between 1977 and 1983", according to The Guardian.
The term Oregon Trail Generation was used by Anna Garvey in her 2015 article "The Oregon Trail Generation: Life Before And After Mainstream Tech", published in Social Media Week to describe those born at "the tail end of the 70s and the start of the 80s". It is named after the video game The Oregon Trail, the Apple II version of which was played by many American GenX/Millennial cuspers in their school computer labs. Other terms, such as Xennials, Generation Catalano and The Lucky Ones are referenced.
Slate defined Generation Catalano as those born from 1977 to 1981, essentially Jimmy Carter's presidency. The name is a reference to the character Jordan Catalano, played by Jared Leto, from the 1990s teen drama My So-Called Life.
Characteristics and traits
The Generation X and Millennial demographic cohorts have been studied concerning generational differences in the workplace. Researchers out of Eindhoven University of Technology found that not every person that belongs to a major generation will share all the same characteristics that are representative for that generation. People that are born on the cusp of a birth cohort may have overlapping characteristics that are related to both. This concept is called “generational fuzziness,” and can lead to the formation of a “microgeneration.” Researcher Melissa Kempf Taylor of the University of Louisville has written that the current microgeneration in the workforce is the Xennial generation, who have their own collective personality. “In generational theory, a cusp is the group of individuals who fall into the overlap between two generations.” “This overlap creates a cusp generation” which bridges the divide between “major generations.”
Cassie McClure, writing for Las Cruces Sun-News, described those in the Oregon Trail Generation as "remembering a time before the digital age, but barely". Anna Garvey has described these individuals as having "both a healthy portion of Gen X grunge cynicism, and a dash of the unbridled optimism of Millennials", and discusses their relationship with both analog and digital technology. Sheknows.com has described individuals born in the late 1970s and early 1980s as sharing traits with both Generation X and Millennials.
Anna Garvey characterized U.S members of this group as having had an "AOL adolescence" and as being from "the last gasp of a time before sexting, Facebook shaming, and constant communication". Dustin Monke of The Dickinson Press described those born in the early 1980s as having early adulthoods which were impacted by the events of the September 11 attacks and the Iraq War.
"There are common experiences," explains Almudena Moreno, sociologist at the University of Valladolid and co-author of the Youth Report in Spain 2012, "and one of the differences between generations can be access to technological instruments, which provide a common living context." This context also influences how we relate to others. According to Australian sociologist, Dan Woodman, "The theory goes that the Xennials dated, and often formed ongoing relationships, pre-social media. They usually weren't on Tinder or Grindr, for their first go at dating at least. They called up their friends and the person they wanted to ask out on a landline phone, hoping that it wasn't their intended date's parent who picked up." Woodman has referred to Xennials as a "cross-over generation" crediting this concept to journalists writing about individuals born during the cusp years, saying that this idea sounds plausible with respect to generations because "the divisions we use aren’t particularly robust. They tend to be imported from North America without much thought, built arbitrarily around the Boomers, and capture changes that often don’t have clear inflection points, so dates can vary." Although he warns that an entire cohort of people will not have one set of characteristics or experiences. Woodman also says "Clearly the idea resonates with a lot of people who felt left out by the usual categorizations." This does not mean that these terms have no value. As Woodman explains, paraphrasing philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, "we are formed by the time in which we live," especially by the experiences of our youth, "which determine our lives and can create new political movements."
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- Woodman, Dan (12 July 2017). "From Boomers to Xennials: we love talking about our generations, but must recognise their limits". The Conversation. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
- Stankorb, Sarah; Oelbaum, Jed (25 September 2014). "Reasonable People Disagree about the Post-Gen X, Pre-Millennial Generation". Good Magazine. Good Worldwide. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
- "I Made Up Xennial 3 Years Ago, So Why Is a Professor in Australia Getting All the Credit?". Vogue. Archived from the original on 14 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
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- Garvey, Anna (21 April 2015). "The Oregon Trail Generation: Life Before And After Mainstream Tech". Social Media Week. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
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- Shafrir, Doree (24 October 2011). "Generation Catalano". Slate. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
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- Taylor, Melissa Kempf (2018). "Xennials: a microgeneration in the workplace". Industrial and Commercial Training. 50 (3): 136–147. doi:10.1108/ICT-08-2017-0065.
- McClure, Cassie (20 May 2016). "My So-Called Millennial Life: Old West pioneers of digital age". Las Cruces Sun-News. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- Fogarty, Lisa (7 January 2016). "13 Signs you're stuck between Gen X & millennials". SheKnows. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- Monke, Dustin (31 May 2015). "Monke: A generation stuck in transition". The Dickinson Press. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- Hancock, Jaimie Rubio (28 June 2017). "¿Naciste entre 1977 y 1983? Pues ni Generación X ni 'millennial', eres un 'xennial'". El Pais (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 24 January 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
'Hay vivencias comunes', explica a Verne Almudena Moreno, socióloga de la Universidad de Valladolid y coautora del Informe de la Juventud en España 2012, 'y una de las diferencias entre generaciones puede ser el acceso a los instrumentos tecnológicos, que proporcionan un contexto vivencial común'. Este contexto también influye en cómo nos relacionamos con los demás. [...] Esto no quiere decir que estos términos no tengan ningún valor. Como explica Woodman, parafraseando a José Ortega y Gasset, 'estamos formados por el tiempo en el que vivimos', especialmente por las experiencias de nuestra juventud, 'que determinan nuestras vidas y pueden crear nuevos movimientos políticos'.