Baby boomers, generation X, generation Z, millennials—the list goes on. These generational labels have become as personal and intimate to us as a tried and trusted deodorant brand. While on the surface they may appear trivial, for so many, they provide a sense of self and an opportunity to reach out and congregate among like-minded communities who share attitudes, perspectives and inside jokes. I mean, let’s be honest here, a baby boomer could never appreciate internet spawns like the Corn kid or the Lord Farquaad haircut.
But one fact that unites all generations alike is that, sooner or later, another cohort of kids will descend upon us and begin to shape cultural norms and attitudes for the next decades to come. And, sure enough, that time is now.
Now, the exact commencement of generation Alpha has been a hot topic for debate online, with many netizens unable to decide when the cohort truly begins. For generational researcher Mark McCrindle, it’s approximately between 2008 to 2010. McCrindle unofficially coined the term ‘generation Alpha’ back in 2008 after gaining feedback from the public through an online survey.
Speaking to The Atlantic in 2020, McCrindle shared that aside from ‘Alpha’, he also received a slew of now-discarded monikers that focused on the next batch of humans’ supposed ‘super-strengths’: technology and the undoing of damage caused by previous generations. These proposals included “Onliners,” “Technos,” “Generation Hope” and, most notably, “Saviours.” No pressure, kiddos.
Of course, generation Z was one among many other potential labels for those of us born between 1997 and 2012. In reality, the post-millennial hoard also skipped out on a number of questionable labels including, “iGen,” “Homelanders,” “Plurals,” or “Founders,” as noted by TIME.
Forbes, like so many other publications, have focused on the consumer potential of these up-and-coming mini millennials. The business magazine—that believes gen Alpha refers to those born between 2010 and 2025—predicts that the kids of tomorrow will most likely grow up in one-child households, thereby making them more selfish and prone to demanding excessive spending dough from their 1980s-born parents.
While this is a rather harsh forecast, it definitely will be interesting to see which traits gen Alpha might carry over from their corporate anxiety-ridden elders.
The internet—aka the place where all things become slightly dark and twisted—naturally has had its own take on gen Alpha and their characteristics. And, as expected, some observations are more astute than others.
On Reddit, users had a wide array of thoughts on the generation in question, ranging from triumphing the youths as “baby geniuses” to admonishing them for not liking SpongeBob SquarePants. Pick your battles, people, these kids are far too busy with hoverboards to appreciate nostalgic cartoon classics.
One of the most prominent strings of discussion among Redditors came from parents both applauding their gen Alpha offspring while simultaneously worrying about the impact AI and social media may have on them.
On these terms, comments included, “I can’t imagine being a parent right now and trying to navigate a world where most kids have tablets or smartphones, let alone fully immersive virtual worlds.” To which a parent replied: “My eldest is six. I homeschool her and I thought I was being a biassed mum but the things she does and says really takes me back, she is six and plays but there’s a side to her where she is beyond her years? Things I didn’t think of or do around her age, her memory and retaining information is amazing. She is extremely observant especially towards her newborn sister and actively tries to figure out how to meet her needs.”
One user also emphasised how it was too soon to truly understand the potential of gen Alpha or how they will navigate adulthood. They wrote, “It’s far too early to tell what major political or world events will influence their formative years. Or even when the cutoff will be. It’s only in retrospect that we can even determine a meaningful estimate for a transition to the next generation anyway.”
On Discord, however, netizens had a slightly more juvenile outlook on the next generation. For those of you who frequent the instant messaging online platform—home to some highly-eclectic and questionable conversations—you may not be surprised by users referring to gen Alpha as “the morons to start World War III,” “arrogant,” and the generation “with the weakest immune system.” Weird diss but okay, I guess.
Albeit varied, there was an overwhelming sense of distrust in gen Alpha among users. That being said, it should be noted that Discord servers aren’t always the most accurate soundboards for public opinion.
In order to gain an even greater understanding, SCREENSHOT also spoke to self-proclaimed millennial Katie Willis to find out more about her generation’s thoughts on the subject. When asked to name certain traits or trends associated with millennials, Willis used the string of terms “socially progressive, difficult mental health, instant gratification, judged.”
On the other hand, when Willis was asked about gen Alpha, she immediately pointed to their assimilation into the digital world. “They’re old before their years, technologically savvy, social media is an even bigger part of their lives than my generation,” she said.
In regards to Willis’ predictions for the future, she deemed baby Alphas “millennials 2.0.” She then went on to explain how she expects them to be “materialistic, but (hopefully) have even more care for the environmental and social issues” with current parents offering a “better upbringing in terms of mental health.”
Millennials, watch out—gen Alpha may be coming for your brand.
While it can be informative, and let’s face it, very entertaining, to conjure up characteristics for future changemakers, it also can lead to reinforcing trends of pigeonholing incredibly diverse and different individuals and communities into a series of stereotypes or assumptions.
Each generation is made up of wildly contrasting people, many of whom will have different life journeys, opinions and perspectives. Grouping everyone’s cultural experiences together can be incredibly insensitive and harmful.
Generational conflict pertains to the inequality within cohorts, rather than the inequalities that exist between one another. As noted by The Conversation, common generalisations—such as assumptions surrounding housing prices or employment opportunities—ignore crucial divides created by gender, ethnicity, disability and class.
Keeping all this in mind, we should only do so much digging into the internet’s murky waters in search of predictions for gen Alpha. However, if netizens are even remotely close with their prophecy for the tech-obsessed toddlers, we’re definitely in for a wild ride.