By BERNADETTE D’AURIA
The “Ok boomer” meme has gained traction among millennials and Gen Z-ers and criticism among baby boomers and Gen X-ers. Following its popularity, many have raised questions about how the phrase is being used.
While the phrase “Ok boomer” is funny and a great way for younger generations to voice their frustration at the constant dismissal they endure, it is important not to forget that the disenfranchised exist across multiple generations and to boil all issues down to being a result of older generations being out of touch results in more problems than solutions.
Older generations have come to criticize the phrase because they believe it to be a type of ageism that pushes different generations further away from having civil discussions. Younger generations have embraced the phrase as a way to target certain political ideologies rather than the age grouping itself. These two different views of how the phrase is being used have caused people to question whether generational conflicts stem from age or if they stem from privilege.
In October 2019 SoundCloud artist Peter Kuli released his remix of Jedwill’s song, “Ok boomer.” A few weeks later, TikTok user linzrinzz uploaded a video reacting to an older man complaining about millennials and Gen Z and their inability to grow up. While the older man complains, linzrinzz holds up a notepad with the phrase “Ok boomer” as a dismissal of the same criticism that many baby boomers have voiced against millennials and Gen Z.
Since early November, there have been over 837 million views on TikTok videos using the hashtag “Ok boomer.” Official merchandise has been created in the form of hoodies, t-shirts and hats that have been purchased by more than 2,000 individuals. The phrase has allowed for a form of camaraderie to be formed by young people who have been subjected to constant criticism by older people within the country.
“I think that it’s hilarious,” said sophomore physics major, Sabrina Mikeal. “The ones causing the tension are the older people who don’t realize it’s a joke…a person of the same older generation calling another person of the same generation ‘boomer’ is okay, but because we Gen Z kids are younger and have less authority, they become offended.”
Sophomore psychology major Erin Wilson believes that the hostility baby boomers have toward younger generations comes from their sense of personal achievement. “Many boomers were born into families that were low income after the war, so when a lot of them live comfortably they have this sense of achievement for working hard to get there.”
This sense of achievement manifests as entitlement among many people. The individuals who have worked for their wealth feel as if others should be given the same trials in order to succeed rather than just expect instant gratification. What is lost among people who have this mindset is that younger people do not want instant gratification as much as they want the assurance that their voices are being heard.
However, not every young voice is rallying behind the same opinion. Just as there are baby boomers who have faced trials and tribulations that have pushed them towards a socially and financially liberal political views, there have been millennials and Gen Z-ers who have had the privilege of growing up with wealth and limited social stigmas that have allowed them to develop socially and financially conservative views. The “Ok boomer” meme targets these younger individuals more than the older individuals who have expressed support on behalf of issues such as climate change, universal healthcare, gender equality, etc.
As a result, there are concerns that the phrase “Ok boomer” is too dismissive and results in limited conversation among different age groups and different political views. NPR’s 1A podcast touched upon this concern by inviting Evon Yao, the former head of the University of Michigan’s student political group, WeListen, to voice her opinion on the matter. She believes “that this whole ‘Ok boomer’ thing is an easy dismissal, and it’ll prevent people from engaging in a productive, political conversation.”
By boiling the main conflict between generations down to being a result of boomers being inherently conservative and millennials and Gen Z-ers being inherently liberal there becomes a conflict not just within the generational divide but within the generations themselves.