Question . . . do you wear your backpack (if you actually wear a backpack) on one shoulder or two? This is something that I’ve noticed over my years at school. If you wear your backpack over one shoulder then you are (probably) of an older generation (Gen X or early Millennials), but if you wear it over two shoulders then you are (probably) are of a younger generation (late Millennials or Gen Z). Now, obviously this is a gross over-generalization, and not at all scientific but this is just something that I’ve picked up on lately.
When I was in college, starting in 1991 (& early when I visited college campuses in the late 1980s), the standard placement of backpacks was slung over one shoulder. It really didn’t matter whether it was over the left shoulder or right (probably corresponding to the handedness of the person wearing it), but I found that this was pretty much the standard. I think, at the beginning, I experimented with wearing the backpack with both straps, but it felt so unnatural to me, at the time, that I pretty much slung it over my right shoulder and that was that. As long as I didn’t overload the pack with too many books for class, it wasn’t really an issue. This pretty much was standard all the way up through 2008 when I started my 2nd Masters Degree in Education at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (UTC). However, I think that began noticing that some students (maybe 40% or so), now wore their backpacks over both shoulders.
Fast forward to 2016 and then I came here to MTSU to study for a PhD in English. Now, pretty much EVERYONE wears their backpacks on both shoulders. The style of wearing the backpack on one shoulder is pretty much non-existent. I do see one or two people, every now and again, who wear their backpacks as I do–on one shoulder–but I would say this percentage is very, very small (sub 5% and probably closer to 1%), and (generally) consists of “older” students (students not in the 18-22 age range). Again, none of this is scientific, but as someone who remembers what a lock the style of “one shoulder” had on college campuses (the ones that I visited at least), I can say that the turn around is quite surprising and just shows that generational differences can be real.
What does it Matter?
In the great scheme of things, not much. However, it does have implications as it means that the style (norms) have changed and that differences that ascribed to different generations may have validity–that these differences are not necessarily made up. While actual research would have to be done on the attitudes and norms that people have in various states of their lives (and as they age), one can’t simply assume that one generation will think the same (act the same, do the same things) as another generation. Knowing what values, norms, and attitudes informs one generation could be helpful in ascertaining and predicting the ways in which another generation might act. For instance, I’ve tried the “two shoulders” regime when I first noticed this in 2016/2017, but it doesn’t work for me. Even though the weight is evenly distributed with two straps, because I didn’t get use to walking with this distributed weight, the bouncing of the book-bag actually throws off my stride and makes it uncomfortable to walk. Although all the weight is on one side with the “one shoulder” approach, I’ve learned how to walk so that it doesn’t affect my gait. As such, no matter how “uncool” it might look in today’s society, I will never move to the “two shoulder” approach. Such a difference marks me as “out of step” with my younger contemporaries, but so be it–I’ll put comfort over style any day.
This, I’m sure, isn’t an earth-shattering revelation, but it is interesting to note that generational differences are out there and may actually affect the way people of one generation may act in regards to other generations. Just something to be mindful of as we all try to coexist through this thing we call “life.”
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