When you think about Gen X, what comes to mind? Disaffected, cynical, rebellious, direction-less youth. Also, the 1990s—which was the last time this generation was on the global radar.

For years, the world has been watching Millennials with fascination. As a large generation as well as the first to come of age with social media and interactive screens, they have been credited with countless transformations of what it means to be an adult.

During this time, media and advertising have targeted Gen X with tired and unimaginative messages based on antiquated ideas of adulthood—including the three milestones of homeownership, marriage, and children.

So, how did one generation go from young iconoclasts to conventional married homeowners in just 20 years?

They didn’t.

As it turns out, while the world was focusing on Boomers, Millennials and Post-Millennials, Generation X quietly reinvented what it means to be an adult. And while Millennials came of age with social media and technology, Gen X was in fact a leading force behind this shift.

The cliché would have that social media is a Millennial phenomenon—but our research shows otherwise. Gen X check for updates on messages and social media an average of 22 times a day, highlighting that social media is as critical to this generation as it is to younger adults. Three out of four Xers agree that they use technology and social media to stay up to date and connected wherever they are. And nearly half say they couldn’t survive a week without their smartphone!

That said, Gen X remember a world without mobile phones and the internet, so they pick and mix the technology that works for them, without letting it take over their lives. They are less likely than younger adults to say their relationships suffer because of their time spent online.

In fact, in terms of maintaining relationships with both family and friends, near and far, social media has transformed the capacity to keep in touch with important people. Three out of four Xers agree that social media has a positive effect on relationships in their life.

Although it is typically Millennials rather than Gen X who are associated with the world of technology and social media, it is worth recalling that there are many notable Gen Xers among the tech and social media trailblazers whose work is still shaping lives around the globe today:

  • Google: Larry Page, 43 / Sergey Brin, 42
  • Twitter: Jack Dorsey, 39 / Biz Stone, 42 / Evan Williams, 44
  • Uber: Travis Kalanic, 39
  • WhatsApp: Jan Koum, 40 / Brian Acton, 44
  • Spotify: Martin Lorentzon, 47

This is just one area where we found Gen X to be the source of socio-cultural shifts that are typically credited to Millennials.

Want to learn more about where Gen X stands when it comes to home life, careers, friendship, and sex?

Come see our latest study “Gen X Today: My life. My way,” at ESOMAR Congress. This research is what we believe to be the most wide-ranging study of this demographic to date. With a sample of over 12,000, we conducted a quantitative survey of people ages 30 to 49 and 18 to 29 (for contrast) across 21 countries, spanning every region of the globe*. This was supplemented with qualitative Gen X research that included asking them to document their lives through photos, dinner gatherings to talk about their lives, and time spent in their homes in 8 cities around the world.

Click here to see all articles from this project.

* North America (USA, Mexico); South America (Brazil, Colombia); Africa (South Africa); Europe  (UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Italy); and Asia Pacific (Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia,  Thailand and Australia)