The Characteristics of Generation C

Teenage boy using digital tablet
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Look out, Generation X, Y, and Z – there's a new generation emerging: Generation C. Its members have one big thing in common: they're digital natives and exceptionally tech-savvy. But researchers are having trouble pinpointing the main characteristics of Generation C, and exactly who can be included in this category.

What does the C stand for? That would be connected. Members of this generation are connected to people and things in ways we never imagined in the past. Social media, gadgets, and wireless technology allow Generation C to share data on the fly. To put this in perspective, here are some numbers about their habits from a Google/IPSOS/NowWhat ​study and other sources:

  • 90% create content for the net at least monthly
  • 83% have posted a picture online
  • 76% visit YouTube weekly
  • 59% look to the internet as their main source of entertainment
  • 56% have followed through after watching ads on YouTube
  • 55% are connected to 100 or more people through social media

Defining Generation C by Birth Year

Some researchers like to define Generation C according to when its members were born. For example, CEFRIO, a public-private technology transfer group in Quebec, Canada, pegs Generation C as a group of individuals born between 1982 and 1996.

It would actually place Generation C within the Generation Y or Millennial category. According to researchers William Strauss and Neil Howe, who have authored a number of books on generational trends, Millennials were born between 1982 and 2001.

Defining Generation C by Technological Focus

Others prefer to define Generation C as a "psychographic" group, or a number of individuals who share a similar state of mind, whether that be certain personality traits, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles.

In this definition, Generation C's members all have the common characteristic of being "digital natives" who turn to the Internet naturally and extensively to do a number of things, and are very Web 2.0-savvy.

Dan Pankraz, a youth planning specialist for a digital marketing agency in Sydney, Australia, says there are five main characteristics of Generation C:

  • A love of content creation and 'mashing' - They can unleash their creative forces using the latest gadgets and gizmos. Companies spend millions of dollars marketing products that encourage this generation to show off their creative skills.
  • The tendency to form active communities - Gen C wants to belong to a community -- online communities, to be more specific. After all, most of them have never known a reality beyond the internet age. They use online mediums to stay in touch with friends, family, and business contacts and engage with people with shared interests
  • A gravitation toward social media sites - Here they can participate in discussions about different ideas and get involved in cultural conversations. They stay informed about causes that matter to them and take an action to improve the environment around them.
  • A desire to be in control - Access to information allows them to control their own lives, and they’re content with complexity because they’re well equipped to deal with it.
  • A desire to work in more creative industries - They don’t want to be restricted by rigid social structures. You’ll see less of them working for Fortune 500 companies and more with startups.

According to U.K. marketing strategist Jake Pearce, age does not matter when defining Generation C. You could be a Baby Boomer (born between 1946 and 1964) and qualify as part of Generation C because you are heavily into Facebook or YouTube.

Or you could technically be part of the Millennial generation and still not be part of Generation C if you have not jumped on the content creation or social media bandwagon. As this Google report puts it, “It’s not an age group; it’s an attitude and mindset defined by key characteristics.”

The Differing Definitions of Generation C

In some cases, the differentiation between Generation C and Y may not matter, since so many Millennials are very tech-savvy and have been immersed in the Internet from a very early age. Many of them will therefore naturally fall into the Gen C category.

While the psychographic definition of Generation C may seem too broad to some, we need to think of it as a different approach to defining a group of people – one that does leave room to include people of all ages who are digitally inclined.

In this case, perhaps we need a better name for this group, as the word "generation" can cause confusion.

This article has since been updated by Laurence Bradford.