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Zillennials: Understanding the Generation Caught Between Millennials and Gen Z

Embark on a journey through the unique world of Zillennials—a generation caught between the nostalgia of millennials and the modernity of Gen Z.

TrillMag/ Collage by Isabelle Ravenna (Images sourced from Shutterstock, Flickr, and iStock.)

“Yoga pants” or “Flare Leggings?” Middle or side part? In the midst of the Millennial-versus-Gen Z online wars, a lesser-known group has found themselves in the crossfire.

Born from 1990 to 2000, this demographic shares quirky hallmarks: They made their first social media doodles on Nintendo Pictochat, lusted after the fictional Pear product, and tirelessly attempted to “tip the iceberg” in digital realms.

They identify as “Zillennials.”

Defining the Zillennial

The Pew Research Center designates 1996 as the cutoff year separating Millennials from Gen Z. Yet, for those born around this time, this distinction doesn’t quite fit.

Juliana Olarte, 26, finds herself in this generational gray area. She told CNN that her younger sister, 16, calls her “cheugy.” A term used by Gen Z to describe millennials taking part in outdated trends.

@genzillenials

If youre not a zillenial, keep scrolling! You cannot relate #zillennial #werezillenials #relatable #millenial #genz

♬ original sound – Zillenial HQ

A Generation of Change

Aside from their ability to cite “SpongeBob SquarePants” in MLA format, this age group experienced pivotal events during significant developmental years.

These individuals were children when 9/11 occurred and “don’t know life before airport security screenings, rampant domestic terrorism, and other frightening threats,” Olarte pointed out.

Zillennials also developed during a significant couple of decades for social progression.

“They seem like they don’t question their belief systems. It’s really admirable,” licensed psychotherapist Raquel Molina LCSW said. “They seem to be more open and loving and have so much frustration because the world doesn’t see it their way. I see them as such growths that the world isn’t prepared for.”

Tech-Savvy Childhoods

“They’re used to things changing fast,” Molina said. “Before, things were kind of slow. But for the Zillennials, they aged alongside this rapid development of technology.”

BuzzFeed notes that Zillennials’ childhoods were defined by the coexistence of VHS tapes, VCRs, DVD players, and gaming consoles under one roof.

“We’ve been growing up with technology our whole lives, but we’re not TikTok dancers like Gen Z, but we also weren’t on MySpace like millennials,” 23-year-old founder of Zillennial Zine Sabrina Grimaldi told CNN.

Digital Playgrounds

The online game “Club Penguin” holds a special place in many Zillennials’ hearts. The universal, Zillennial inside-joke myth of tipping the iceberg for hidden treasures became a bonding experience.

Similarly, Nickelodeon’s fictional Pear products also left a mark. Parodying Apple devices, these props in shows like “iCarly” mirrored real-life tech trends.

Language Barriers

The way Millennials and Gen Z communicate differs significantly. Zillennials are often able to both cringe and relate to the generations they find themselves between.

Not to mention, the acknowledgement of this micro-generation doesn’t come without its fair-share of criticism.

Many Gen Z kids have disavowed Zillennialism and see it as a means of these older Gen-Zers attempting to distinguish themselves from their generation to feel special.

From birthing the term “cheugy” to popularizing the phrase “that’s cringe,” Gen Z has found commonality in criticizing the millennials. Zillennials, though, find themselves both relating to and cringing at the generations they were born between.

A New Nostalgia

In a new development, a recent trend has arisen in the territory of Gen Z on TikTok. Users have begun romanticizing the teenage years of Zillennials. Feel old yet?

In the name of nostalgic yearning, these social media trends glamorize these years of Zillennials, specifically the era around 2014. Through posts that exclaim, “I wish I was a teenager in 2014,” they curate a collage of images that encapsulate the quintessential Zillennial teenage experience.

Fashion and Music

Fashion trends during the Zillennial teenage years were a vibrant mix of past and present, with skinny jeans, graphic tees, and the revival of ’90s styles dominating the scene. Significantly, American Apparel became a staple for its basic yet trendy pieces, while the influence of celebrities like Lana Del Rey brought a nostalgic, vintage flair to young wardrobes.

The era was marked by a blend of comfort and statement-making fashion, with Zillennials embracing bold patterns, bright colors, and a mix of casual and chic elements that reflected their dynamic, evolving identities.

Teen Magazines

For Zillennials in junior high and high school, boy bands like One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS) were cultural phenomena that defined an era. These bands provided a soundtrack for countless school dances, road trips, and teenage daydreams, creating first crushes that many Zillennials look back on with nostalgia.

Teens and Tweens adorned their walls with posters of Justin Bieber and One Direction, torn from the pages of teen magazines like Seventeen and Tiger Beat. These publications were a staple in the lives of young fans, offering not just posters but interviews, quizzes, and glimpses into the lives of the hottest celebrities. Flipping through these magazines was a cherished ritual, providing a tangible connection to the music and celebrities that shaped their adolescent world.

In conclusion, Zillennials navigate a unique cultural space, blending elements of Millennials and Gen Z. Their experiences, from technology to fashion and music, reflect a generation that bridges the gap between two distinct eras.

Written By

Isabel Ravenna is a Culture Writer for Trill Mag, Freelance Journalist and Published Author based in Los Angeles, CA. For business inquiries, contact [email protected].

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