Want to keep reading?

You've reached the end of your complimentary access. Subscribe for as little as $4/month.

Aready a Subscriber ? Sign In

Have you ever heard your parents say, “Back in my day, life was so much more difficult. Kids these days are so spoiled”? You would be surprised to know that they were the spoiled hipsters of yesteryear.

As long as there have been Homo sapiens, there has been a generation gap and elders frowning upon it. One can almost imagine a geriatric Neanderthal rolling his eyes as his prodigy used the wheel or even before that, a Homo erectus grandfather looking suspiciously at his children living the easy life by using a fire to cook, leaving the good old days of raw meat dinners.

From the complaints of Socrates turning young men against the establishment, to the small but vocal groups of Boomers on social media, there have been many examples of elderly backlash to changing times. One of the first documented episodes of such outrage goes back to Ancient Greece, from the 5th Century BCE onwards. During this time, a population boom and plentiful sustenance inspired philosophers and thinkers to question the world around them. In fact there is a saying, “All that I know is that I know nothing.” The young Athenians were educated to question everything, and this stung the established order. The noblemen condemned this wave of change and even succeeded in poisoning the leader of a major group, whom we know as Socrates, in 399 BCE. But the die was cast, and his doctrine spread under the likes of Aristotle and Alexander the Great. Despite the cry of the previous generations, change was inevitable.

During the Industrial Revolution, from around 1800-1915, technology started ramping up, and new discoveries began to replace the established order. The younger generation of this period shook the world with the printing press and steam engines, as well as telegraphs. Gone were the days of horse-drawn carriages, messenger pigeons, and quill pens. As an example of such geriatric backlash, the famous Luddites smashed machines in textile plants all across southern England, but the resistance was quelled by 1815, and the rest was history.

Fast-forwarding a few decades, we come to the tie-dye halcyon that was the 1960s. Their parents, who had been the brave heroes of World War II and the Korean War, with Victorian values and tough-knuckles education, had difficulty accepting what came after. Riding high on the Eisenhower economic boom, they had only one such musing: “Out with the old, in with the new.” Long hair, neon shirts, and peace signs became rife, as did the protests about war.

Coming to modern times, it’s ironic that those same hippies that had run riot in the ‘60s were to become, you guessed it, just like their parents. With the rise of phones, game consoles, and computers, those very people who had once been at the forefront of change, condemned the newer generations, and all of their technology.

At the risk of simplifying too much, is my generation's addiction to social media, digital content, and video games and our iPhones, any different from our parents’ vices of television, VCRs, and Walkmans?

I will leave you with a sobering thought: when we become our parents what will our generation be outraged about? It is hard to imagine, isn’t it? Perhaps this forthcoming generation will have their own addictions, as the VR, cybernetic implants, and artificial intelligence take over reality. Perhaps there will come a time when I, too, will say, "Back in my day...”

Reader Interactions


  1. “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
    — Socrates

  2. Wow

    I always thought the rate of change in technology is what drove the generation gap.

    Never would have thought it has always existed – atleast not more than a couple of hundred years ago.

    Very interesting – thank you for this schamil.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.