As the last age group to reach adulthood before the rise of the internet, Generation X is the odd in-between stage of generations. While the digital world isn’t as foreign to them as it is to Baby Boomers, they also are nowhere near the level of digital natives like millennials. Born between the years 1965 and 1979, members of this generational group spent their formative years without the internet, acclimating to it slowly as teenagers or in their 20s or 30s. However, as a large part of the current workforce and economy, it is important to understand America’s smallest generational group and their digital habits.
While they aren’t the most comfortable with social media, Gen X is no stranger to technology. They were the first generation to grow up playing video games, the first gaming console released in 1972. Also, many Gen Xers were familiar with videocassette recorders (VCR), being able to record their favorite TV programs and watch them on demand. These upbringings reflect their current technology use, with a Gen Xer consuming on average 165 hours of TV per month. So, how did their childhood without social media affect them?
When the internet was released to the public in 1993, social media quickly followed it. With the release of Myspace in 2003, the platform was quickly picked up by millennials and thus started their addiction to social media. Social media didn’t take off as well with the older generation, the youngest Gen Xer at the time being 24.
While they were initially slow to pick it up, Gen X eventually adjusted to the new norm. Of all digital immigrants, Gen X embraced social media the fastest, with 77.5% of Gen Xers on social media today. Surprisingly, they are the generation who use it the most, beating even millennials by spending an average of 7 hours per week on social media. Of the social media platforms, Facebook is most popular with this age group, with 88.6% of them accessing it at least once per month according to an eMarketer survey. From there, their platform use considerably dwindles, with a mere 45.9% on Instagram, 24.5% on Twitter, and 19.1% on Snapchat. Unlike the younger generations who experiment with their social platforms, Gen X tend to stick with what they know and love.
So, now that it’s obvious that Gen X uses social media just as much as everyone else, why does this generation’s use differ from the rest? Well, unlike millennials and Zoomers, Gen Xers did not partake in the ‘selfie culture’ that is associated with social media. In fact, they don’t tend to broadcast their personal life, with only 24% actually have posted a selfie. This explains their tendency to lean towards Facebook instead of other platforms like Instagram and Snapchat where selfie culture runs rampant. Rather, Gen X use social media to connect with friends and research information about brands. According to BigCommerce, “Generation Xers tend to research businesses on the internet even after seeing a TV commercial or newspaper ad”, making it vital for companies to have consistent messaging across their platforms.
Despite being known as America’s “middle child” or “lost generation”, Gen X is far from insignificant. While it is the smallest generation, Gen Xers hold 26.9% of the nation’s wealth, which is massive in comparison to the 5% that millennials own. However, they are often swept under the rug, marketers and companies often choosing to cater to other generations (such as millennials). It is my hope that Gen X gets the love they deserve, whether that’s through job opportunities, targeted advertisements, or even just this article.