There’s a scene in the popular sitcom Modern Family, where Phil Dunphy calls his middle child, Alex, a ‘self-cleaning oven’. Typical of middle children, Alex often finds herself relating to none of her siblings, is often solving her own problems, or figuring out what she’s too old for, but not young enough for.
A parallel to the middle child conversation is how we are defining generations now. With the onset of the internet and multiple sources to help one identify their generation, there’s a bracket that isn’t old enough to be millennial, but has experienced certain millennial milestones. This is a generation that doesn’t find F.R.I.E.N.D.S all that funny, but also doesn’t particularly indulge in TikTok trends. They didn’t use MySpace, but had a brief tryst with Orkut. They were born when the Internet was around, but didn’t need an iPad at age six. They are the zillennials.
NEITHER HERE, NOR THERE
The defining bracket of the zillennial microgeneration is 1992 to 1998 – a time when the world was only beginning its historic transition to the digital age. The age bracket, however, is big enough to peak interest in social researchers as well as the microgeneration themselves in understanding where they stand on the scale. On TikTok, The #zillennial hashtag has gotten 1.6 billion views, and one search on Instagram will lead you to find various graphs, pie charts, interactive memes pointing to zillennial traits and how to recognize them, from their fashion choices (apparently wearing straight jeans that’s neither baggy nor skinny is a zillennial trait) to their experience with flip phones.
1998 born Shagufta Jahan Khan, a publicist, realised she is a zillennial while reading a news piece. It was like the answer to why she finds it challenging to connect with Gen Z. “From my perspective, Gen Z prioritizes colorful wardrobes and discovers music through social media platforms. At work, I could relate to the millennials’ working style more than those of my Gen Z peers, albeit not in a negative way,” she shares. 27-year-old Saloni Trivedi, a communications specialist, says that the disconnect starts with not being able to completely relate to either of the cohorts when there are certain behavioural instincts in question. “While I’m able to keep up with a lot of Gen Z slang as compared to my millennial colleagues, my relatability is uncertain. I think a lot has changed since millennials were a certain age to where we are now. However, I am not in complete denial of a millennial’s experience, as one might find Gen Z to be,” she explains..
Many would find it comforting to understand their generational middle childness, while it helps other decide which traits of which generation they’d rather retain. In a quote to , generations researcher and president of Center for Generational Kinetics, Jason Dorsey explains that “Zillennials wish to distance themselves from the negative prejudices attributed by the media to Gen Y, keen not to replicate these traits.”
However, with this newfound recognition as a microgeneration, one can hope zillennials will find it easier to create their own niche. An example of this would be Zillennial Zine, an online magazine dedicated to zillennials started by Arizona-based journalist Sabrina Grimaldi. The Zillennial Zine has made its own news splashes for catering to the niche, and has surpassed 2M Pinterest and Google impressions. Clearly, there’s an audience that feels seen, heard, and understood.