Writer: Sarah P.
Visual: Somya D.
Editor: Norbu L.
“The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up; they think that the Utopian ideals that they have in their youth are somehow going to translate into adulthood,” claims an older man in an audio clip that has since gone viral on the social media app TikTok. The resulting attention sparked the popularization of the slang phrase “OK boomer” which is generally used as a condescending retort from Generation Z and millennials that is directed towards older generations, specifically the baby boomers, or people born between the mid ‘40s and ‘60s.
The phrase inspired the “#OkBoomer” meme format on TikTok, which includes videos that have been viewed as many as 45 million times. 19 year old Shannon O’Connor, an art student from the United States, designed merchandise featuring an “OK boomer” plastic bag, complete with the caption “Have a terrible day.” After receiving widespread attention on TikTok, the product generated more than $25,000 in sales by November 1, 2019. Not soon after a song entitled “ok boomer” was released by Jonathan Williams and it already has hundreds of thousands of streams on SoundCloud. Many memes have been made about the older generation, but what triggered the large scale response to this one?
Various people from varying generations have had their own say on what they believe “OK boomer” means. Many baby boomers see it as a blatant “ageist slur” and accuse younger generations of generalizing their diverse figures and beliefs. On the other hand, it acts as a quip of frustration amongst millennials and Generation Z. Twitter user Morgan Kester explained, “Millennials [and Generation Z] tried for so long to explain using facts and evidence that they don’t actually have it that easy and they aren’t just lazy, but it became very clear that boomers don’t care about facts, evidence, or reality for this matter… ‘ok boomer’ is kind of the equivalent of ‘Wow, you’re so horribly wrong, but I don’t have the time or the energy to repeatedly explain something to you that you’re not going to listen to anyway.’
Moreover, some members of younger generations believe choices boomers made and continue to make are hurting their futures. Joshua Citarella, a researcher of online communities, found that “Gen Z is going to be the first generation to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them.” This is supported by evidence of “rising inequality, unaffordable college tuition, political polarization exacerbated by the internet, and the climate crisis,” which are all considered to be major factors in inciting the anti-boomer sentiment.
In reality, the target of “OK boomer” is not someone of a certain age or an entire generation; it is aimed at those with a bitter mindset towards diversity and equality. The two words criticize the stereotypical older generation that looks down on youths with new ideals, trends, and beliefs. Simply put, it applies to anyone who fails to see the inevitability and power of change.
Ultimately, generational prejudice only divides populations. Hopefully, if anything, “OK boomer” will teach people to keep an open mind free of judgment, and the world will be better for it.
Lorenz, Taylor. “’OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 29 Oct. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/29/style/ok-boomer.html.
“OK Boomer.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Nov. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OK_Boomer.