As the first latchkey/daycare generation, we long for the authentic, intimate community that typically our families of origin didn’t provide. However, we also have no real model for how to create community.
So we’re try-ers. We experiment a lot with things that we believe will fill that void of deep connection in our lives. We keep looking.
In the marketplace, there’s a working theory that Gen X’s search for community is largely responsible for the explosion of coffeeshops in the last decade or so. There’s a reason people still associate us with coffeehouses. Do a quick Google search on Starbucks and “Third Places” and you’ll see what I mean. We’re all still looking for our own Central Perk, as if a group of quirky, funny friends with great apartments will then magically appear if we find it.
In the online realm, this has resulted in heavy Gen X participation in social networks like Myspace and Facebook, and why we ruled the message boards, blogs and Yahoo Groups that came before them. Having failed to find community via blood relation or caffeine-induced camaraderie, we hope that seeking out those with similar interests and ideologies will work. And the social web’s marvelous propensity to sort folks by interest and ideology can make it seem like an eBay for friends.
There is some encouraging news available on our generation’s continuing quest for community. Generation X typically waits longer to get married, but our divorce rate is dramatically lower than either Boomers or Millenials. We also spend more time with our kids than our parents’ generation did.
Slowly but surely, it seems like we’re figuring out how to make community work from the point where it originally failed us–the nuclear family–and hopefully we can work our way outward from there.