Have you heard or seen the two words that seem to be everywhere these days: “OK Boomer?”
This catch phrase has gained traction quickly this fall on the Internet with memes, jokes, and merchandise featuring the “OK Boomer” logo. In fact, a number of trademark applications have been filed for its use – most notably one by Fox for a TV show last week.
Supposedly, this whole “OK Boomer” thing 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, “The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up.”
Of course, the younger crowd was outraged and many responded with YouTube videos, memes, and tweets featuring two simple words, “OK Boomer.”
What exactly does this expression mean? Depends who you ask.
According to Wikipedia, “OK Boomer is an ageist catchphrase and internet meme that gained popularity throughout 2019, used to dismiss or mock attitudes stereotypically attributed to the baby boomer 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 rising student loan debt, financial instability, and environmental concerns, they are wary of patronizing advice from baby boomers who didn’t face the same issues at their age. The younger generation is tired of being called “snowflakes,” insinuating they can’t keep a job, are non-resilient, and overly-emotional when it comes to challenging viewpoints.
Baby boomers have a different take on the phrase. Many are quick to point out that the catch phrase, “OK Boomer,” smacks of ageism. One conservative radio host, Bob Lonsberry, went as far as labeling the word “boomer” as “the n-word of ageism” in a controversial tweet.
Making things even worse, Myrna Blyth, a senior vice president of AARP, recently said in an interview with Axios, “Okay, millennials, but we’re the people that actually have the money.” The quote resulted in thousands of tweets from the younger crowd, calling Blyth tone deaf and arrogant. According to AARP, this quote was taken out of context and was referring to how older people, in particular older women, were overlooked in ads. And the war goes on.
The New York Times headlined an article on the subject: “OK Boomer Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations.”
Say it isn’t so.
Okay, I don’t like the phrase, “OK Boomer.” The catchall phrase seems dismissive, sarcastic, mocking, and sadly decisive during a time when this country is already being torn apart by differing views on politics. And it does seem ageist, insinuating baby boomers are old-fashioned, resistant to change, behind on technology, and out of touch. As a boomer myself, I certainly take issue with those assumptions.
But, in all fairness, I can see why the younger generation is upset by some of the insulting jabs aimed their way. They have felt silenced when older people claim their opinion doesn’t count because they lack experience. Many millennials are in their 30s now and tired of being told to “grow up.” The younger generation deserves to be acknowledged and heard. Unfortunately, while defending themselves, this generation is using the same belittling age-oriented stereotypes that they don’t want to be labeled by.
So, let’s just stop it. All of us. Let’s quit using insulting and dismissive catchphrases purely based on what generation people happen to be born in – which is completely out of our control, by the way.
Let’s bridge the gap. After all, we have many of the same problems. For example, true, much of the younger generation is buried by student loan debt. But as I pointed out in an earlier blog, many boomers are in debt as well, going bankrupt in record numbers as they face rising medical costs, loss of jobs, and disappearing pensions. We’re all in the same boat. Can’t both generations show compassion and empathy for each other?
Let’s take it a step further. Perhaps we boomers can admire – and even mimic – some of the traits young people have such as a sense of adventure, spontaneity, and curiosity. Maybe the younger generations can learn from older people who have lived through tragedies and triumphs and learned to overcome adversities.
After all, what benefits come from hurling insults at each other? Let’s respect and learn from each other instead.