The Life Experience Of Gen Xers Is Reflected In Their Superior Self-Isolation Behaviors

May 14, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Gen X knows how to hunker down. When the quarantines started, there was a lot of speculation on how everyone would cope with the isolation, and Gen X came out strong with a quick defense of why they were the generation best equipped to handle being bored, stuck inside and feeling fine about the end of the world as we know it. While Gen Z partied and Boomers kept going to garden club meetings, Gen X was already at home stocked up on wine, toilet paper and Disney+.

Independence At An Early Age And Working Parents Prepped Xers For Coronavirus

The Hoarse Whisperer tweet

Among the many reasons Xers are certain they are the best qualified to quarantine are the skills acquired from being latchkey kids. Long ago, before there were scheduled activities every single day, Gen X kids of all ages would go home after school — alone and basically veg out until their parents got home. This typically involved watching a lot of MTV, playing Atari or Nintendo video games, eating Chef Boyardee and chatting on phones that had cords. More and more families had two working parents, and divorce rates were at an all time high in the 1980s, so many kids lived with only one parent full time. 

A lot of the entertainment wasn’t always thrilling. A recent article in Paper City Magazine summed up Gen X’s “advanced tolerance for boredom,” this way:  We [Gen Xers] were completely satisfied to play with our Pet Rocks (which was literally just a rock), or the world’s first video game, Pong (literally a dot on the screen, moving between two cursors). The first generation of “gamers,” we cut our teeth on joystick games like Frogger, Pac Man and Galaga. In other words, we are pretty easily entertained.

Generation X also lived through the threat of nuclear war, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the AIDS crisis, and as adults, 9/11 and the stock market crash. There’s a lot of built-in “been there done that” with Gen X, which is also reflected in their attitudes about the coronavirus quarantines. 

The Long Term Impact Of Coronavirus On Specific Generations Remains To Be Seen

Shutterstock_1679839444 Young modern quarantined coronavirus family in medical masks. The call to stay home stop the pandemic. Self-isolation together is the solution. Care covid-19. mom dad son millennials

Of course, despite their well-honed cynicism and bravado, Gen X has plenty to worry about during the pandemic. As the sandwich generation, much of Gen X is quarantining with children of all ages currently home from school while dealing with Boomer parents who may have initially been reluctant to heed the self-isolation guidelines. But how Gen X copes now and after everyone transitions back to post-coronavirus normal may be directly related to the milestones and identifiers of their generation. “Every generation will react differently [to COVID-19] based on the experiences that generation has had,” said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO of the nonprofit Mental Health America. 

For advertisers, understanding how different generations are responding during self-isolation and the now reopening economy can be critical to making decisions on where to place ad dollars and how to craft marketing messages. One of the shifts in Gen X behavior is increased consumption of broadcast news, which may not last beyond the duration of this global crisis. But, increased news consumption is a reflection and an example of what Generation X needs right now and where to find them. Gen Xers tend to be brand loyal, tech savvy, flexible shoppers, enjoying online and brick-and-mortar experiences. It’s unlikely that Gen X consumer personas will change drastically as a result of coronavirus, but advertisers should monitor behaviors and strategize ongoing engagement to keep up with the moods of the moment. 

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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