1. Have you ever felt a generation gap with your friends?
Friends? No, not with them. With my cousins’ kids that are now in their 20s? Yes. With how they think of and use social media, and their surprising lack of deeper computer skills. And especially that often they do everything on their smartphones – things I myself only think are comfortable to do on a desktop or laptop, such as making purchases. They also don’t seem to build thing online – they don’t make personal websites, or fansites, or blogs. They do post maybe on Instagram or TikTok but to me those aren’t the same – they’re all things to me that feel transitory and like you’re not really supposed to find posts a week later. They do quite often bemoan of not find a platform or a website they’d like, but it never seems to occur to them that they could build it themselves. That’s what my generation and older did! They know even less about simple things like html than I do! I’ve forgotten a lot, but I still know how to make text bold or italics, how to include an image and how to make a link. They… don’t. I don’t know… you’re think these basic things are thought in school, but maybe it’s all done only WYSIWYG editors?? Or maybe they really don’t teach it at all.
On the plus side, my cousins’ kids are so much more open and smarter about their feelings and emotions, and I think that’s great. My friends and I and my Mom are better about it now, but when we were kids/young we never spoke about our honest deep emotions, not even with friends – if you were depressed or anxious about something, it was weird and weak. At most you you could say that you don’t like doing presentations for the whole class, but not that you couldn’t sleep the night before because of it, or that your stomach was roiling minutes before it was your turn. Instead you had to play it like it was no big thing.
I was depressed myself for maybe 3 or 4 months in very late 90s- I’d sleep 22 hours a day, every day, wouldn’t shower, let all the dishes etc. pile up and then people started to scare me and I started to avoid them. I didn’t tell anyone, instead did my damnest to hide it all. But when that avoiding people thing started to happen, I realized that “Nope, I’m doing this – if I let this happen, I’ll be a literal hermit soon” (I have hermit tendencies even in normal circumstances and I’ve always known this). So I made a point to go grocery shopping every other day – it was awful, and nasty, and I felt everyone staring at me (even though I knew and could see nobody in actuality did). At first I did it late at night in the dark (it was winter) and with only a few items because I knew the shop would have only a few customers at that time of night and I’d be in and out quick. It took a couple of week of that to not feel panicky and being around people starting to feel normal again, so then I started to shop earlier with a few more items when there’s more people around and again did that until that felt normal, and then started to go when it was light out and even more people about and did that until it felt like nothing. And so on and so on until people didn’t scare me anymore and I could be where other people are without feeling anything about it. I still have trouble if there’s huge crowds like during Crazy Days at Wiklund where there’s so many people packed in you can hardly move around, and I guess I’ll just never like crowds – but the main thing is I have no problems in normal times.
But I went through all that alone and only told about it to my Mom and best friend more than a decade later, because these things simply weren’t talked about until the last 15 years or so that I’ve noticed. I actually realized that what I had had was depression when magazines started publishing mental health articles (or at least that’s when I started noticing them in magazines) more and more frequently. Until then I’d just thought about it as “that weird time of mine”. So I think it’s great that the younger generation talk more about sensitive things and are more open and honest about their feelings and emotions, and that they don’t hopefully have to go through things all alone and unsupported while they try to make things better.
My cousins’ kids also seem to have more body confidence, or maybe it’s just that fashion is what it is now but even fat young people are wearing a rather tight, or even skin-tight, clothing now. When I was a kid in the 80s the fashion was so different and looser, but certainly fat kids wore more baggy clothing than not. But fashion was so different in the 80s and 90s – I feel like back then, even looking at old photos and not just going by my memories, that kids dressed more like kids and clearly differed from adults. But now 12 year olds dress the same as 22 year olds it feels like. To middle-aged me it all looks kind of odd and unflattering sometimes (skinny jeans look awful on everybody IMO), but also cool at the same time! Body confidence for the win!
2. At what point in life does the generation gap seem to be the largest?
Not really sure… as far as things like having family, employment and money go, when my generated reached around age 30 that’s when the differences started to manifest between my generation and the previous, I think.
3. What role, if any does music play in generation gaps?
Foreign language barrier! And computers! I’ve noticed it with people of my parents age – so about 70 and up.
They often don’t know non-Finnish songs by name, and only know a limited number of certain non-Finnish artists by name because they’re big international stars. Because there’s a language barrier – they only had Swedish taught them in school, and only some of them learned English later on in life, normally if their work required it. So huge numbers of them only speak Finnish, and maybe little bit of Swedish. They know famous artists by name such as Madonna or Leonard Cohen, but couldn’t name a single song by them but do recognize many of their most popular songs when they come on on the radio; they just don’t know song names and the lyrics because they don’t speak the language. Same thing with other foreign artists such as Celine Dion etc. Whereas my generation learned Swedish and English in school by default, and optionally also could take a third foreign language, usually Germany or French).
Also, Internet and computers came widely into use when my generation were young adults and they were in their middle age. Many of my parents friends didn’t either have to use computers in their jobs at all, or they never learned anything except the needed fuctions of the specific programs their employer used – so they never learned Windows and general computer usage (such as copy/paste, or making a new text file etc.), as an example. Several of my Mom’s friends have never owned a computer or a smartphone and don’t plan to. Some even have landline phones still (those are exceedingly rare and expensive here now).
Luckily I’ve always been interested in computers and phones, so I’ve gotten my Mom casually interested in computers, Internet and smartphones half accidentally and half on purpose, and she’s doing well! She doesn’t really understand all the things such as the difference between e-mail, WhatsApp and text messages but she uses them smoothly and she can do the updates smoothly too. Sometimes she needs to take a photo of some new window and send it to me “What does this mean? What do I do??” but Windows is now so easy that she has no troubles with it, especially now that they have the new laptop which is so much faster and more pleasant to use. Almost everything is now easier done online – scheduling a doctor’s appointment, a dentist, banking, paying bills, taxes, library books renewal, pretty much everything and it’s so much easier a life if you can do many things online as you can. But my Mom’s SO couldn’t care less about computers – he never had to learn them for his work, and the only reason he uses a computer now is because my Mom is there to show him how to pay bills online, or book a cruise so he can buy his topacco cheaper on the cruise – and that’s also common among my parents generation. But even my Mom isn’t interested in things like subscription services – she does watch things from Yle Areena (free streaming service by the national broadcasting company/local TV) if she misses them when they’re on TV, but Netflix? Zero interest. Same with music subscriptions – zero interest. She listens to the radio, and buys a CD sometimes, and borrows one from the library sometimes and then listens to them on the computer, but subscription services or reading an e-book? Pfft!
4. Despite your attempts, have you become your parents?
Well, my Mom. Dad’s been dead for three decades now.
I’m sure I have in several respects – I’ve hang around her all my life after all!
5. Do you think your generation’s fight is similar to your parents generations fight?
No, it isn’t. They’re the generation that’s had it the easiest when it comes to money and supporting oneself, compared to the generations previous and the generations that have came after. At least here in Finland.
My parent’s generation were born in mid-40s, either just before or after the end of the WWII. Socioeconomically things only got better for the next 40 years, the wellfare state was being built, prices were low compared to now and full time employment was easily found and steady even if you had no schooling. They could afford to have families, own homes, have vacations and could save money for bad times. But on the other had, they had much less choice in many things – marriage was assumed for everyone and for a long time you had to pay a tax if one remained single, there was war trauma from our war with Russia, people needed to move to cities from the countryside for work, and just simply had much less choice for products while shopping. Food import from abroad was much less until the 1980s, according to my Mom, so many fruits and vegetables and cheeses that I have always taken for granted, weren’t available until they were in their 30s and 40s in the 1980s. And apparently shops had MUCH fewer choices in flavored milk products and cheeses – Mom said there was basically four flavors of yughurt available: strawberry, blueberry and banana, and unflavored. Made by one or two companies. Now there’s like 20 flavors, each with several different degrees of fats, by a dozen different companies.
Personally, for me and my family, the biggest difference is employment and money. My parents and cousins’ and friend’s parents all had steady employment (if they wanted it – one or two of my Mom’s friends were stay-at-home moms by choice), often staying with one employer from start of their career to the end, with frequent and regular paychecks and good benefits such as minimum four weeks of summer leave. A lot of them earned only low wages, but housing prices etc. all were such that even with low wages they were able to buy homes, a summer cottage if they wanted one and were able have a vacation abroad every year if desired, were able to put their kids through school as well as save for bad times. They weren’t rich, but far from poor even when just working class. And now that they’re retired, most of them have good enough pensions that cover their daily needs, own their homes and most have savings for bad days.
My generation? Some of us have a high paying job and are over worked (a few of my friends/acquintances). But mostly in my circle of friends/acquintances of my age, we’ve never had steady employment, only have temp jobs and no benefits because of that. Most of us have had at least 10 different employers, some over 30. The jobs last from a few days to a year and usually when one job ends, we don’t know when the next one starts. We never have actual, official summer leave because either we’re unemployed or working a temp job for the summer. If we own our home, it’s because we inherited it when our parents or grand-parents died, or our parents gave us money as pre-inheritment so we could buy one. But mostly we rent. We’ve don’t own summer cottages except again, unless it was inherited. And a few of my friends who did inherit a summer cottage, they couldn’t afford to keep it (the yearly maintenance) and had to sell it instead. Our income is haphazardly strung together from low paychecks and unemployment and other benefits because either we don’t get enough hours, or our pay is so low. We often have to fight withe the bureaucracy required by getting benefits and jobs simultaneously monthly or at least several times a year. We’re poor, or one or two steps away from being poor and a thing like broken fridge can mess up for budgets for months. We’ll be lucky if we’ll have pensions at all, the way politics are going. I know mine will be below poverty line, just as I’ve been all my adult life.
It seems that either the members of my generation do really well in higher-paying jobs (often something to do with computers and IT, or doctors), or really badly with low/middle paying jobs usually (often in the creative or service industry or nursing) and there’s very little middle ground.