Meet Generation C
Dr. James Emery White Dr. James Emery White's weblog
- 2021 Jan 21
You’ll forgive the play on words in the title in relation to my book Meet Generation Z.
But I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised by the number of people who have asked me whether the pandemic has altered earlier generational studies such as mine.
In truth, there is a generational mark that COVID will leave behind. On the young, it will be a year of education largely lost, a new set of fears in place, and a family of origin potentially devastated financially. And as an article in the New York Times noted, they have experienced a “childhood without children.” Meaning at least a year or more of their life without birthday parties, play dates and daycare.
These are not short-term impacts.
And yes, it may very well be that in years to come we will talk about the generation that follows “Generation Z” as “Generation C” (short for COVID) as a Bank of America Research report suggests. While they won’t remember the pandemic, it is being surmised that they will be distinct from Generation Z in four ways:
1. Gen C will be the only generation to know problem solving “through fiscal stimulus and free government money.” This could lay a foundation for embracing universal healthcare and universal basic income.
2. Gen C will set a new precedent for physical interaction, making normal signs of intimacy – like hugging – abstract and normalizing virtual attendance at events and in classes.
3. Gen C won’t be able to live without tech in every aspect of their lives, from online virtual tutors for personalized schooling to food delivery services that personalize food requirements.
4. Unlike Gen Z, Gen C won’t remember the pandemic. Though it will be the dividing line between Gen Z and their own generation, they will have to read about it in history books. They will be defined by growing up in a post-pandemic world, not by bearing the brunt of it (which Gen Z will have to add to their resume).
But in truth, the pandemic has affected all of us as an intergenerational macro-community. It’s more akin to how 9/11 cut through all ages, socio-economic stratums, races and religions. Just as many of us can remember exactly where we were when we watched the planes crash into the twin towers, we will forever remember the specific nature of what the pandemic did to our lives.
But if we’re all Gen C, at least in terms of the event affecting us, what does that mean? How has it marked us? In, at the very least, three ways:
1. We all now know that financial health matters.
2. We all now know that family/community matters.
3. We all now know that truth matters.
Did that last one surprise you? If 2020 held any lesson, it was that we desperately needed truth. In a year of supposedly fake news, conspiracy theories, wear-a-mask/don’t-wear-a-mask, it’s just like the flu/it’s worse than the flu,
… we yearned for truth.
And discovered, as never before, that truth matters.
Even a skeptic as hardened as Sigmund Freud had to maintain that if “it were really a matter of indifference what we believed, then we might just as well build our bridges of cardboard as of stone, or inject a tenth of a gramme of morphia into a patient instead of a hundredth, or take teargas as a narcotic instead of ether.”
I would like to say that there were four things that mark Gen C, the fourth being: “We all now know that faith matters.”
I’m just not sure that one got through.
James Emery White
James Emery White, Meet Generation Z.
Hillary Hoffower, “Meet 'Generation Covid' — the newest cohort on the heels of Gen Z,” Business Insider, December 1, 2020, read online.
Matt Richtel, “Childhood Without Other Children: A Generation Is Raised in Quarantine,” The New York Times, December 9, 2020, read online.
Sigmund Freud, cited in “Truth,” in The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/coscaron
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His forthcoming book After “I Believe” is now available for preorder on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.