It’s not shocking that a magazine called Time would be interested in the march of human generations. But the weekly’s much-discussed cover story on the late-’80s to mid-’90s “millennials,” Generation Me Me Me glossed past (as do the inevitable retorts) the possibility that the year of one’s birth just isn’t very important. A broad study three years ago, based on perhaps the largest available data sets measuring American youth, was skeptical that “generational” cohesion—of the sort we obsess over—exists at all.
…The two psychologists’ findings seem common sense. A woman born in Boston, raised in a bilingual environment, with two siblings; who served in Iraq with the Air Force; is married with two children; subscribes to HBO; and earns $52,000 a year working in commercial property administration, is supposed to share primary character traits with a man from a fourth-generation Wyoming family, monolingual, single, no kids, earning $24,000 as a painter, so long as they were both born in 1991, and are Facebook friends?
Fair play to Time, I suppose, for achieving their aim of getting tons of people chattering about their story, even if only to complain about it. Guitar magazines can only look on enviously, wishing that their next pointless cover story on “The 106 Greatest Shredders of All Time or at Least Since the Last List and Until the Next One” could attract so much attention. Generational analysis is astrology for people who fancy themselves too educated and sophisticated to take astrology seriously. The perfect marks, in other words.