The Differences Between Baby Boomers and Generation Z


In any country you go to there is normally a distinctive culture that can be found there. American culture is a culture that changes with the generations and the technology that is experienced during that time. Technology and other factors impacted how each generation views the world and how the spectacle formed overtime.  

When you look at American society and the generations baby boomers and Generation Z are incredibly different. They grew up during different times in American history and different points in the formation of the spectacle. Baby boomers grew up when the spectacle was beginning form. Television was just starting to become widespread during their childhoods and the effect of television on the spectacle was starting to be seen. When you compare the baby boomer’s experience to Generation Z there are very distinctive differences.  

The many distinctive differences between these generations make it seem like their experiences with the spectacle would be very different. But that is not completely true the generations are affected very similarly but on different scales. When you do make the comparisons it becomes apparent that the main differences are between the technologies and the scale of the spectacle. 

Looking at the time when the baby boomers were younger and the spectacle affected them most the technology that brought them into the spectacle was television. This technology changed so much in American history while still holding relevance in our culture today. 

When television first started becoming more widespread it brought along many groundbreaking forms of sharing information and ideas. Instead of making a nonfiction book about a place or people group you could make a documentary that could immerse the viewer in the experience of your documentary and what you want to show your audience. Television also had a major political impact that changed American history and brought the spectacle into a major role in American society. An example of this is the Kennedy vs. Nixon debate. 

“The power of these televised images revealed itself in post-debate polls. Many radio listeners gave the edge to Nixon. Television viewers, however, overwhelmingly agreed that Kennedy had won. By their next debate, Nixon had solved his appearance problems, but the damage was done.” ( Politics, pg.1)  

This became a sign of a major shift in how the spectacle was brought into American culture. Television heavily impacted baby boomers and changed how they view the world. As television became more widespread it brought more attention to appearances and societal expectations. The exact effects on baby boomers are hard to track because each person’s life is different. But one thing is for sure for many years when the baby boomers were growing up the best way to get the most up-to-date information was through television. It was the one place where you could get information and entertainment. Television is also considered one of the ways the baby boomers rebelled against their parents. “Those children innately understood that television, despite being welcomed into every living room, wasn’t “good” for them. This made watching TV all the more appealing as they fought their parents’ constant pleas to “go outside and play.” (Moore, pg.1)  Baby boomers proactively choosing to participate in the spectacle is one way it gained so much momentum. When you have a large group of people consuming the same type of media the same ideas are shared over and over again which is how the spectacle takes hold. When the spectacle has a hold on our society it can adapt and change with the new technologies that arise.

One of the major changes that led to a growth in the spectacle was computers becoming more accessible and becoming commonplace in the home. “Millions of Apple IIs were sold between 1977 and 1993, making it one of the longest-lived lines of personal computers. Apple gave away thousands of Apple IIs to school, giving a new generation their first access to personal computers.” ( Timeline, pg.1)  Computers have become one of the most impactful technologies in the modern world. Computers have taken many forms and lead to major impacts on the spectacle. The main form of computers in our current society is smartphones. Smartphones have created a huge impact on our society and Generation Z.

Generation Z is the first generation to not know a time before computers and the internet. Generation Z grew up surrounded by technology their entire life and grew up in a time when the spectacle was in full swing. Smartphones and computers brought the spectacle to this generation and gave Generation Z access to the internet and the spectacle of our society whenever they wanted. This in turn impacted Generation Z in a very different way because they didn’t choose to participate in the spectacle they were born into it.  Generation Z has been heavily impacted by the media and it has shaped this generation to have certain expectations. “ For example, the portrayal of women and men in advertisements but also in movies and television “shows” leaves viewers with the notion that the women and men one meets in real life ought to be treated as portrayed on television.” ( Falk, pg.122)  These expectations on how life should happen based on what the media tells us should look like direct links to the spectacle and the world it created. The spectacle affects everyone in our society but comparing the baby boomer’s experience and Generation Z’s experience with the spectacle is an interesting comparison.

Baby boomers grew up and in a time where the spectacle was just starting to take hold so they could choose to participate in the spectacle or not. Because the majority of people want to fit in with the mainstream crowd many people chose to participate in the spectacle. The spectacle is an alternate reality built on images online and in the mainstream media.  This spectacle has grown because of social media and the rise of computers. It has changed our habits and even our abilities to do tasks. “Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets—reading and writing emails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link.” ( Carr, pg.1) These changes show up the most in the generation that has grown up not knowing life without the spectacle. Generation Z is this generation that has been impacted the most because they grew up with the internet and the spectacle. Generation Z supports Carr’s argument that Google and the internet are changing who we are. Generation Z is almost always online, always interacting through the internet whether it be an article or an online petition. 

The main difference between these generations and how the spectacle affects them is the device that most introduced them to the spectacle. Baby boomers mostly were introduced to the spectacle through television as I stated earlier in the essay while Generation Z was introduced through computers including smartphones. These differences may seem small but when the devices are compared it becomes clear how much hold the spectacle could have on these generations. On television, you are only able to watch or listen to shows and you couldn’t take it with you everywhere while on computers and smartphones you can. Computers are far more capable of introducing people into the spectacle and getting them immersed in it. On a computer, there are countless ways that you can participate without even realizing it. Just by reading the news looking on social media and browsing random articles on the web, you are actively participating in the spectacle. Because Generation Z was introduced to the spectacle via computers they are far more invested in it than most older generations. This is the main distinctive difference. Many of the symptoms of the spectacle haven't changed but the scale on which these symptoms present themselves has. 

While the names of the generations have changed and the times also have humans are all still the same species we are wired the same way. The spectacle and technology as we know it today are designed to feed into our desires. The desires we have may be superficial such as having a lot of money or being deemed a gorgeous human being. But in the end, mainstream media and the spectacle define what these traits are and the ideas of traits such as beauty and wealth are ever-changing. What was deemed beautiful in the past may not be deemed as beautiful now? What was deemed wealthy in the past may not be deemed as wealthy now? 

While biologically human evolution continues throughout our entire existence the evolution of technology and the spectacle is faster and humans are the ones pushing this evolution. Due to the fact that people keep pushing the evolution of technology we are also pushing the spectacle which is an ambiguous idea that we may never fully understand. The major questions that many people may have cannot be answered in a simple paper or by research it is an idea to be pondered. While my question and argument of what the differences between the generations and how does the spectacle tie into those differences is a big question. The largest most daunting question would be is the spectacle bad or is it helpful to us.

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