Have you heard or seen the two words that seem to be everywhere these days: “OK Boomer?”
This catchphrase has quickly gained traction this fall on the internet with memes, jokes, and “OK Boomer” logo products. In fact, several trademark applications have been filed for its use, the most notable of which was from Fox for a television show last week.
This whole “OK Boomer” thing allegedly took on a life of its own after a viral clip on TikTok featured a white-haired man in a baseball cap and polo shirt declaring, “Millennials and Gen Z have the syndrome. Peter Pan, I never want to grow up. “
Of course, the younger crowd was outraged and many responded with YouTube videos, memes, and tweets with two simple words, “OK Boomer.”
What exactly does this expression mean? It depends on who you ask.
According to Wikipedia, “OK Boomer is an ageist slogan and internet meme that gained popularity throughout 2019, used to dismiss or poke fun at stereotypical attitudes attributed to the baby boom generation.”
If you ask the younger generation what they mean by “OK Boomer,” they will probably tell you that they feel misunderstood by the older generation and are tired of their condescending attitude. Facing mounting student loan debt, financial instability, and environmental concerns, they are wary of patronizing advice from baby boomers who didn’t face the same problems at their age. The younger generation is tired of being called “snowflakes,” implying that they can’t keep a job, that they’re not resilient, and overly emotional when it comes to challenging points of view.
Baby boomers have a different take on the phrase. Many are quick to point out that the catchphrase, “OK Boomer,” reeks of age discrimination. A conservative radio host, Bob Lonsberry, went so far as to label the word “boomer” as “the nth word for age discrimination” in a controversial tweet.
The New York Times headlined an article on the subject: “OK Boomer Marks the End of Generational Friendly Relations.”
Say it isn’t.
Okay, I don’t like the phrase “OK Boomer”. The blanket phrase seems dismissive, sarcastic, mocking, and sadly decisive at a time when this country is already being torn apart by different views on politics. And he does seem aged, hinting that baby boomers are old-fashioned, resistant to change, backward in technology, and out of touch. Like a boom, I certainly disagree with those assumptions.
But to be fair, I can see why the younger generation is upset by some of the insulting blows aimed at them. They have felt silenced when older people say that their opinion does not count because they lack experience. Many millennials are now in their 30s and tired of being told to “grow up.” The younger generation deserves to be recognized and heard. Unfortunately, while standing up for themselves, this generation is using the same derogatory age-oriented stereotypes that they don’t want to be labeled with.
So, let’s stop doing it. All of us. Let’s stop using insulting and derogatory phrases based solely on the generation people were born into, which, by the way, is completely out of our control.
Let’s fill the gap. After all, we have many of the same problems. For example, it is true that much of the younger generation is buried in student loan debt. But many boomers are also in debt, filing bankruptcy in record numbers as they face rising medical costs, job losses and the disappearance of pensions. We are all in the same boat. Can’t both generations show compassion and empathy for each other?
Let’s go one step further. Perhaps we boomers can admire, and even imitate, some of the traits that young people have, such as a sense of adventure, spontaneity and curiosity. Perhaps younger generations can learn from older people who have experienced tragedies and triumphs and have learned to overcome adversity.
After all, what benefits come from throwing insults at each other? Instead, let’s respect and learn from each other.