generation zennial

Remember the days when TikTok referred to a Kesha song and the internet wasn’t just a click away on your phone? Back in the good ‘ol days, we typed “:)” instead of clicking a personalized emoji and watched The Backyardigans before it became a hit on social media.

Growing up, I memorized my friends’ phone numbers, and I still remember the local radio station’s digits for contests. A timeout was sitting in the corner away from my toys rather than losing iPad privileges.

After numerous cultural campaign courses defining what each generation means and how they are separated, I’m still clueless as to where I’m supposed to be.

The Pew Research Center defines millennials as those born between 1981 to 1996, followed by Generation Z in 1997 to 2012. Sales Force describes millennials to be more idealistic and an optimistic generation as they were raised during an economic boom, rather than Gen Z, who was brought up in a recession. Millennials were alive during the 9/11 attacks and remember the terror across the country, while Gen Z has only heard about it through classes and stories.

As a 2001 baby, I don’t quite understand where I fit in. Millennials won’t accept me as one of them due to having a “technological childhood,” yet I still look at Gen Z and shake my head. I’ve recently joined a Facebook group called 2000s and 90s babies, where pictures and memories are shared to reminisce about our childhoods. Often, I find myself relating more to millennials than the group members born after 2004.

I grew up with Disney Channel and Nickelodeon without the option of DVR. I ran to the bathroom during commercials while my brother would scream when Phineas and Ferb returned. My dad burned our favorite shows onto discs so we could watch them on our portable DVD players on road trips. I remember waiting until opening night to see my favorite films hit theaters, with no ability to stream them from the comfort of my own house until they were available at Blockbuster.

In elementary school, I thought I was the coolest kid with my portable CD Walkman while kids today have iPhones and AirPods. I didn’t even get my first iPhone until junior year of high school, and even then, it was a used iPhone 4.

The majority of my childhood was spent running outdoors and occasionally playing on the Playstation 2 or Nintendo DS Lite. Prior to that, I had a sparkly pink Game Boy. 

However, I fit into Gen Z a little more than I care to admit. I spent countless hours on TikTok this past summer, and I care too much about my social media presence. No cap, I still find myself Googling new terms like a boomer, and full disclosure, I just try to stay away from the Gen Z lingo because I’m never quite sure if I’m using it correctly. I’d rather avoid the strange looks when trying to incorporate ‘Go Off’ and ‘Suh’ in my dictionary.

Last year, I found myself trapped in the Among Us realm and used “sus” a little more than necessary. I never got into the Tide PODS challenge or TikTok dances, and I never understood “cancel culture” terms. I occasionally edit my Instagram pictures, although that might just be the photographer in me, and hashtags are a foreign language for me. 

These past few years, I’ve wondered where I’m supposed to shop for clothes. Stores I once loved such as H&M, Aéropostale and even Target are becoming too Gen Z for me. I still wear skinny jeans and a side part in my hair. I think the loose mom jeans are ridiculous, but I’d rather not bring back the four layers of shirts paired with a skirt and leggings. I can hardly find shirts that aren’t displaying my chest in the junior section, and I’m not quite ready to dress like a middle-aged woman in the women’s section. 

All of this leads me to wonder where I fit in along with my late 1990s and early 2000s buddies. According to Quizscape, I’m a millennial for my lack of lingo knowledge — I still can’t decide if SMH means “so much hate” or “shaking my head.” Yet, a Buzzfeed quiz asking a variety of questions about artists, clothing preferences and social media determined that I was a Gen Z.

I say we normalize the Generation Zennials, because we don’t necessarily fit in with surrounding ages. We are an independent group who remember our childhoods without a screen constantly in front of our face, but we are still tech savvy enough to impress every boomer alive. We might need to look up what ‘stan’ and ‘snaptrap’ means, but we can usually hold a conversation in the TikTok comments. Our phones are filled with Vines, and we can still sing the Duck Song at a snap of a finger.

I’ve learned to accept that I’ll never fit in with a specific generation. I’ll never be mature enough for the millennials and I’ll never be cool enough for Gen Z, but I’m content being the Generation Zennial that I am.

culture@dailynebraskan.com