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  Opinion   Columnists  19 Feb 2023  Ranjona Banerji | Alpha, Boomer, Z, Gen X! Which is the coolest one?

Ranjona Banerji | Alpha, Boomer, Z, Gen X! Which is the coolest one?

The writer is a senior journalist who writes on media affairs, politics and social trends.
Published : Feb 19, 2023, 12:11 am IST
Updated : Feb 19, 2023, 12:15 am IST

This Internet cut off makes almost no sense. I know people born in 1930s — the Silents — who are addicted to their smartphones


I have learnt so much from being addicted to Instagram reels. I would have watched that other short video app stuff but I think tick-tick or whatever has been banned for some patriotic reasons. Thank the higher-ups that egg fried rice, despite its provenance, has not been banned because I have become obsessed with it for an unknown reason. I desperately crave the extremely oily egg fried rice a little bar down the road from our newspaper office in the mill area of Mumbai would send over for some pitiful amount of Rs 50, at midnight. Welcome relief after we closed the edition. It had everything wrong with it but tasted so good. Patriotism be damned!

I never meant to say that. It’s a typo! Don’t malign me!

What these “reels” have taught me though is that I belong to some terrible generation of people. I thought I understand Millennials and I even cruelly made fun of them. This was wrong of me, I realised. Especially since I apparently am a “baby boomer”. The tail end of it that is.

This is supposed to mean that my parents’ generation had a lot of procreative activity to make up for the Second World War. My parents however were very small during the Second World War. And did not get married and have me until we are few years towards the end of the “Boomer” cut-off date which is 1964. My younger sister is born in the next “gen set” (ha ha, you have to be a Boomer or the next one to know the other usage for that!) which is Gen X.

I find this a bit offensive. There’s three years between us so why does she have this trendy X and I have something specific to do with the sex lives of our parents? I mean everyone is here because of someone’s sex lives and I don’t see why I don’t get a better determinator than that.


What I have thus understood is that in the whole of human kind’s history, only seven generations which span the 20th and 21st centuries have names: The Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, The Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Generation Z and Gen Alpha.

Humans before that were just some olden day things.

I assume — although I have no clue — that I belong to the generation that tops the “In my days we had no… (list all the things we didn’t have)” conversation. But I do remember from my childhood that my dear grandparents and their friends — Greatests and Silents both — and my parents (Silents) said this sort of thing ALL the time.

Everything cost one anna, they worked their fingers to the bone from daybreak to sundown, they studied under lampposts and in gaslight and so on. Gas light was an actual thing, not a movie and a term you have to look up in urban dictionary if you’re a Boomer.

If I was an American, as a Boomer I would be “economically influential”. I just think this “Boomer” definition covers too many years. I was born and grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. I started working in the 1980s. As an Indian, this meant the most deprived time in some ways. India jumped into being a socialist self-sufficient economy. Which meant we had very little. It is also true that we did not know that we had very little so it didn’t matter. At best, Archie comics told us what we were missing like sea monkeys. While Enid Blyton gave us some comparable clues about post-world war Britain and rations et cetera.

I have learnt that Gen X did not have an easy time of it, ahem, compared to Boomers. Double ahem. I have thus surmised that all this stuff – the early generations at least — are all American in definition. Post the liberalization of the Indian economy — 1991 — we sort of globalised ourselves. Which means that it is only Millennials onwards that we can sort of align our generations with the Western world’s large-scale generalisations.

Apart from the phenomenon that is avocado on toast, the Millennials are also very socially correct — not like Downton Abbey but in a more inclusive way. They also brought mental health issues to the forefront. They are also very aware of their rights. Entitled is the word the rest of us use for them.

But they do all this in a sort of opposite way to the 1960s young people, who fall in the Boomer thing, but were all anti-establishment, drugs, sex and rock and roll and cool and hip with the best music and flower power and hippies. The sort of generation I wish I belonged to but I was born 10 years too late. Those hippies defined cool although the Millennials would tell us that it was all appropriation. Millennials know stuff like that.

The Millennials — I know this from my Millennial nephews — are also dismissive of the Gen Z or Zoomers that follow them.  Because of our age and diminishing cognition and more accurately eyesight, some of us don’t get the difference between the two. I read some very academic stuff on this and still weren’t told how they were different. All to do with the Internet.

This Internet cut off makes almost no sense. I know people born in the 1930s — the Silents — who are addicted to their smartphones and do everything with them. My uncle, born 1932, was the first in the family to get the latest electronic gadgets and educate us about them, especially the Luddites.

So it’s all a bit, heh heh heh. To me. Like my uncle could say “everything cost one anna when I was little” but could also say “this is what you do when you are locked out of your fancy expensive phone made by the cult company”.

I envy the Alphas the most. They live in this alternate reality social media world.

They never answer their phones, only message. They are fully digitised. They can do the shuffle dance which I so love with such consummate ease.

If I was a teenager instead of this ageing fake Boomer person, I would be one of them.

Now excuse me, while I go back to me “reels”. Has anyone made egg fried rice while doing a shuffle dance in 30 seconds yet?

Tags: instagram, second world war, boomer