Vivek Haldar

Generation AD

Millennials were born from early 1980s to the early 2000s. The generation before that, Generation X, consists of people born from early 1960s to the early 1980s. Notice the fuzzy boundaries. I was born right between them.

There is endless debate about the characteristics of each generation, but how can one assign characteristics to something as broad as an entire set of humans born in three designated decades? But one can at least try to assign characteristics to their times.

I feel like part of neither Gen X nor the millennials. Gen X feels too old, more like my parents’ generation. And most millennials feel too young.

I feel like part of the analog-digital generation. I’m calling it Generation AD. The generation before was firmly analog. The generation after are digital natives. Generation AD is the confused one in the middle.

I define Generation AD to consist of those who spent their early youth (approximately up to high school) living a largely analog lifestyle, and transitioned to a largely digital one thereafter.

The internet had not caught on when they were young. There wasn’t a cellphone in everyone’s hands. No screens in the classroom! They had to call their friends on landline phones, make concrete plans about when and where to meet, and then go there. They learned cursive handwriting in school. They were taught that penmanship was important.

And then, by the time they were in their late teens and early twenties, a giant switch got flipped in the span of a few years. The internet exploded. Mobile devices proliferated. Digital took over. Typing replace handwriting. Cellphones meant everything could be planned in real time and nothing needed to be planned of ahead of time.

Generation AD deeply understands the advantages of being cleanly digital, and yet feels a nostalgic pull to analog things like pens and paper. This results in Frankenstein workflows like making heavy use of notebooks… and then scanning them for posterity. Bits, after all, are much lighter than atoms, and moving a hard disk is much easier than lugging boxes of notebooks.

Generation AD is the last and only one familiar enough with both sides of the digital/analog divide to truly reason about each. Gen X is analog at heart and puts up with digital life mostly because it has to. Millennials skipped analog altogether. Neither are in a position to produce nuanced critiques of our digital lifestyles. Only Gen AD knows which nooks and crannies analog fills better, and hence truly appreciates those where going digital has more impact. Gen AD consists of people who remember concepts or quotes from books spatially (“it was on the top of the left page, somewhere near the middle of the book”), but who will gladly ditch the dead-tree version and sling their tablets when they travel.

We will be perpetually stuck in the middle.