Why I Call Myself a “Geriatric Millennial” — and Why Our Micro-Generation Matters

Regardless of what you call us, kids of the early 80s uniquely bridge the divide between digital natives and digital adapters

Erica Dhawan

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Illustration: Rob Dobi

Last week, I was astonished that my term “geriatric millennials” triggered over 15,000 retweets of my essay in Medium’s work publication Index about the unique digital communication issues faced by the micro-generation born between 1980 and 1985. It even made international news headlines ranging from The Today Show online to HuffPo.

Sure enough, people of all ages and backgrounds across the internet were doing what we do best — fighting a label. The term itself certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest, with some people who had fun with the term and others who were offended by it. Others suggested less quarrelsome monikers, such as Xennials, Elder Millennials, and the Oregon Trail Generation.

But even as debate raged over the right label to use, people tended to agree with the argument at the heart of my piece: the speed of technological adoption makes it wrong to see an entire generation (spanning almost a 20 year difference) as being the same.

Whatever you call them, the micro-generation I’m talking about is important and unique because it straddles what I call “digital natives” and “digital adapters.” Kids of the early ’80s spent their formative years on both sides of the analog and digital divide, and play a crucial role in helping bridge the communication gaps between the adapters and natives..

I arrived at this realization after having spent more than a decade investigating, researching, and finding new ways to encourage collaboration and communication in the workplace. In my new book Digital Body Language, I explore the new digital cues and signals that foster trust and connection, no matter the distance.

I interviewed American workers across the generational spectrum, from Boomers to Gen Z. The differences in micro-generations were impossible to ignore. While many factors impact digital fluency, the strongest indicator of how you use and engage with technology (and the anxiety that comes with it) is the number of years you’ve spent using digital as your…

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Erica Dhawan

Keynote Speaker on 21st Century Teamwork and Innovation. Author, GET BIG THINGS DONE and DIGITAL BODY LANGUAGE (ORDER HERE: http://bit.ly/3avbJkg)