The world has already passed the birth of Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z – and now comes the dawn of the incoming generation: Generation Alpha. But what will this generation look like and what will be the trends that define their lives?
Generation Alpha describes people who were born from 2010 onwards and, therefore, have spent their whole lives in the digital world. This generation is cruising head-on to an uncertain future, but it is clear they will bear witness to some huge global changes.
For a little bit of context, we can take a look at other generations of recent times and see how things panned out for them.
Who are the Baby Boomers?
Baby Boomers are generally defined as people born from 1946 to 1964 during the post-Second World War explosion in birth rates. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, this generation saw a huge cultural change fueled by the ongoing rise of capitalism and individualism.
While the situation differed around the world, it is generally seen as an affluent period marked by growing standards of living and higher educational levels. It was the age of Woodstock, the Vietnam War, and the contraceptive pill. However, their liberal attitudes didn’t stick around for long and Boomers are now seen as a conservative generation who set the foundations of the world today, both good and bad (mainly the bad).
What is Generation X?
Generation X is defined as people born from 1965 to 1980. They were the first generation to grow up with a vague grasp of computer technology, although their formative years were not connected to the internet.
Their childhoods, unlike those of Boomers, were during shakier economic times. During their youth, they were seen as jaded and disaffected, but they now enjoy relative prosperity compared to younger generations. Once perceived as rebellious, this generation now effectively runs the world – sellouts!
What years are Millennials?
Millennials are those born from 1981 to 1996 who grew up around the turn of the millennium. Their early life was relatively tech-free, but they became the first generation that grew up in the Internet age. Think of them as a transitional generation between the old analog world and the hyper-online digital world of today.
The world became increasingly uncertain during the formative years of Millennials; they’ll have probably watched the 9/11 terror attacks on live television as children and there's a strong chance their family life was shaken up by the 2008 financial crisis.
They are also notable for being the first generation that has not become more conservative with age. Stereotypically, this is the generation that kickstarted Facebook, donned skinny jeans, and now gets laughed at for not understanding TikTok trends.
Who are Gen Z?
There’s some debate around when the cut-off between Millennials and Gen Z begins, but it’s largely agreed they were born between the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2010s. This generation’s formative years were saturated with the Internet and computer technology, much more so than Millennials. As such, they’re often dubbed "digital natives" who shy away from the vices of sex, drugs, and alcohol that teenagers were formerly associated with. They have a taste for vaping and marijuana, however.
Much like Millennials, they also tend to be more liberal than previous generations and are more open to emerging social trends. Additionally, they continue the trend of declining mental health, with many reports suggesting that Gen Z is experiencing a surge in anxiety and depression.
What is Generation Alpha?
And now comes Generation Alpha, which describes people born from 2010 onwards. Since most members of the generation are yet to reach their teens, it’s hard to say what characteristics and events will define their adult life. However, we can say that they tend to be the children of Millennials and have only experienced a world that is totally immersed in the internet age.
This generation is set to be the most technologically savvy generation yet and they will enjoy a longer life span than previous generations, but they will also live through an uncertain time of falling fertility rates, geopolitical shifts, and further economic uncertainty.
It appears Generation Alpha could also bear the brunt of COVID-19 and its legacy on the world. The fallout from the pandemic has affected education rates and increased child poverty, not to mention the many impacts that are yet to be seen, like long-term health impacts and unforeseen social changes.
A report by UNICEF in late 2021 described the global upset of COVID-19 as "the biggest threat to children in our 75-year history” and argued it could make Generation Alpha a “lost generation.”
For now, however, the story of Generation Alpha is yet to be written.