Juvenoia is a neologism theorized by the sociologist David Finkelhor in 2011. A portmanteau of “juvenile” and “paranoia”, it is defined as the fear or hostility felt by a generation about a younger generation or about youth culture in general.
The science popularizer Michael Stevens made a a video that was very informative , as usual:
Is Evan Spiegel the new Mozart?
The fact is that every generation demeans the next generation. They don’t understand them, or perhaps they don’t want to understand them. That’s how it is and that’s how it has always been. George Orwell stated: “Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” Nothing new in the West, then.
As far back as 1871(!), Sunday Magazine wrote: “Nowadays, we send off a multitude of rapid and short notes, instead of taking the time to write on a sheet of paper”. Does that remind you of anything? Something uttered by Granny during dinner last Sunday, complaining about her grandchildren’s text messages?
To do away with examples, let’s take another look at Richard Curtis’s masterpiece, Good Morning England: rock, which is now high-quality, excellent music, was seen in the 1960s as uncivilized music that needed to be banned. Children hid themselves away at night to listen to Dusty Springfield, and radios had to flout the law and transmit from off the English coast… How times have changed!
Similarly, in their time, books and magazines were accused of being the end of “real” and deep conversations, cars were seen as the decadence of a lazy generation, and Mozart was seen as a a mad genius who didn’t care for musical rules.
According to Michael Stevens, those in their thirties and above reject the younger generations and misunderstand their behavior for three reasons:
- By nature, the “generation before” is a success. It has managed to avoid the end of the species and has extended the life of humanity. It therefore has a dim view of the different behavior of the young generations: since they have managed to save humanity, their children must follow their example so they, in turn, can save the species. Any deviation from their own behavior could be a problem.
- The second lies in the following question: what has changed the most, the individual or the world? It is the perception of the world that individuals of the previous generation have that has changed. No, drivers aren’t worse now, it’s just that you have more responsibility, and you have to mind your children when crossing the road.
- And finally, everybody is nostalgic for their childhood. Consequently, any childhood that differs from ours is seen as abnormal, or inferior. “There was no Snapchat in my day. Snapchat is clearly a sign of the decay and demise of culture!”, making Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, the new Mozart. This is due to the fact that we create more memories when we are teenagers than when we are adults, as Michael Stevens explains.
Baby boomers, the only real generation?
In a landmark article for the Washington Post Philip Bump argues the following theory: there is only one true generation which brings together the characteristics needed to be perceived as a homogeneous cohort. The baby boomers.
Numerically, the boomers already make up the largest generation and are the result of a real explosion in the birth rate following World War II. Their period is clear: the two decades following the Great War. On the other hand, Gen X, Gen Y, and other Millennials don’t have a clear and indisputable beginning and end. Their chronological definitions are subject to debate and there is no real consensus on their dates.
Finally, according to demographers, only the baby boomer generation is a real cohort, in other words, a group that shares certain common demographic characteristics. Other generations are defined by more or less arbitrary criteria. They are more akin to story telling created by marketers.
Challengers or creatives?
Let’s talk about marketing experts. An article published on a French media outlet (L’ADN) summarizes the latest academic publications deciphering the consumer behavior of different generations. One of them, led by a Dutch company, Motivaction, with 15,000 millennials from 20 countries, classifies the population into five categories: the challengers, the conservatives, the socializers, the creatives, and the achievers.
Michel Sara, the founder of ROI Marketing and author of the article on L’ADN, explains these different categories as follows:
- “Challengers”: workers who love competition and are captivated by money, risk, and adventure
- “Conservatives”: those who are well-organized, family-oriented, and for whom tradition and etiquette are important
- “Socializers”: those seeking structures who like leisure time, freedom, and family values
- “Creatives”: open-minded idealists who value personal development and culture
- “Achievers”: entrepreneurs with networks, whose loved ones and communities are important to them
As the graph above shows in a very visual way, these different labels are more or less equally spread throughout the three generations studied. “Thinking that 2 billion people born between 1981 and 2000 are homogeneous is foolish, but thinking that they differ greatly from their elders is just as stupid”, Michel Sara proclaims. And he’s probably not wrong. Therefore let’s not get carried away by marketing concepts.
For companies, the issue is, as usual, very easy to state but very difficult to put into practice. It’s about making sure you’re at the halfway point between excessive youthism and the simplistic mockery of a lazy generation Y. Because experience is nothing without having the nerve to believe that everything is possible, and the energy to do things is nothing without the wisdom of history.
As we often repeat in our columns, it is the responsibility of the managers and HR to find the right finer details in order to address the needs and aspirations of each individual in the most personalized way possible. Here we are convinced that this fine detail isn’t to be found in ages, but in personalities, hobbies, relationship with work, ease within a group… In the above study, this amounts to identifying which members of the organization are challengers, which are creatives, which are conservatives, etc. Because a company needs all of these profiles in order to thrive.
Besides, why shouldn’t a young fool and an old fart be compatible? It’s time to rewatch the film Tour de France by Rachid Djaïdani with French actor Gérard Depardieu: the story of a young rapper from the projects who forges a strong friendship with an old man fond of painting who travels from port to port.
In any case, the alphabet only has 26 letters, once generation Z has arrived, what do we call the future generations?