The Differences Between Centennials (Generation Z) and Millennials (Generation Y)

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Recently, The New York Times published a couple of articles distinguishing the emerging generation as those who are born after Millennials and from the mid-to-late-1990s and onward. While this generation is still young, there are already a small series of identifiers that divorce them from Millennials.

1. Most obviously, they are the first generation to never know life without the Internet and social media. As Generation Z arguably begins in the mid-1990s — the earliest estimation is approximately around 1995 — and the blow-up of mobile devices and social media began in the early 2000s, this generation has never experienced a world where technology wasn’t ever-present and all-encompassing, research was done using a card catalog and papers were handwritten, or people waited for a parent to hang up the phone before they could use it to call a friend. We hardly recall those times now they are so far behind us, but never having experienced them certainly molds a unique perspective.

2. At present, their sense of style is a lot more simplistic than that of Millennials. If Millennials are the generation of layering, Centennials are the generation of basics. Check out Brandy Melville — or literally any Centennial Instagram account — for evidence of this hypothesis. Millennials embrace the classic wardrobes of generations past, especially our affinity for timeless and antiquated fashion and sophistication (see: Anthropologie and Banana Republic). And while this isn’t entirely untrue for Centennials, there is a strong inclination toward the simpler styles of the early 1990s and the grunge period.

Certainly, not all Millennials are well-dressed, but even the grungiest among us feel some pressure to conform to societal notions of event-appropriate fashion. For Centennials, basics get the job done. They’re accustomed to a much less formal upbringing, what with the prevalence of Millennial upstart companies and the like, that they value practicality above formality. It is not uncommon to see a Centennial sport a dress with sneakers, and in five-to-ten years this will probably work for everyone.

3. They are a lot less judgmental. This is generally speaking, of course, but culturally, Centennials have not had years to internally debate morally liberalistic versus authoritarian views, such as gay marriage, the existence of transsexuals, and female bodily autonomy, so there is a lot less debate on these issues amongst this generation. These realities are simply accepted, just as Millennials accepted racial equality with greater ease than generations before.

4. Furthermore, they are slightly more serious than Millennials. This is, after all, the generation who only know a post-9/11 America, who see school shootings in the media on the regular, and who probably have a much harder time cutting class than we did, especially with the relatively recent security measures that exist to protect them. It seems this is manifesting in the form of pragmatism. They still like to have fun, but they’re less dreamy than their Millennial predecessors.

5. As we can all attest, they have very short attention spans. Another result of the Internet is that Generation Z gains and loses focus with great ease. They are accustomed from birth to sensory overload, so naturally, the amount of time they require to filter through information is substantially decreased. This is both beneficial and detrimental, but it certainly contrasts the status quo. Millennials are the generation of overwhelming possibilities, whereas Centennials possess a keen and sharp ability to decide.

Are these the tell-tale marks of a Centennial? Perhaps, and honestly, it sounds like a breath of fresh air to this Millennial. I say, bring ‘em on!

By Stephanie Casella

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