“OK, Boomer” is the current phrase going viral on social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter. Meant as a generational insult, it’s a clap-back to people with outdated views on topics such as politics and the environment and is meant as an automatic shut-down. Various news outlets are taking note of this current phenomenon and giving it more impact than it deserves.
The New York Times recently came out with an article titled “‘OK Boomer’ marks the end of friendly generational relations,” in which it details the current trend of some Millennials and Gen Z-ers using the phrase online and in real life. More articles followed suit, some even listing examples of people selling merchandise such as sweaters and stickers with the phrase on them.
While such comments can spread virally online like never before, name-calling between the generations is nothing new and will never go away. Millenials were once called hipsters, young environmentalists were called hippies in the 70s, and the 60s saw a counterculture emerging as a rebellion against old fashioned ideas and style. As Bob Dylan noted in a 1964 song, the times were a-changin’ — and times will always change.
Culture shifts naturally over time as new ideas and trends become more popular. Even though some trends can come back, like vinyl players and, more currently, 90s accessories, the older generation is almost always left in the dust and have a hard time adjusting to new styles. This creates a sense of dissonance among the new and old generations; thus, frustrations and insults ensue.
The problem with so much attention being brought to the “OK, Boomer” phenomenon is that it mostly exists solely in social media and in quick quips in real life. Ask someone who isn’t very active on Twitter or TikTok about the phrase and they probably won’t have a definitive opinion since they aren’t frequently exposed to it.
This new phrase is not like when young people burned Vietnam draft cards in the 60s and 70s due to growing unrest with the war. The most notable instance of “OK, Boomer” being used in a more serious setting is when 25-year-old New Zealand lawmaker Chloe Swarbrick used the phrase to counter an older member of parliament who was heckling her during her speech on reducing carbon emissions. That being said, a juvenile interruption merits a juvenile response.
The generations have never had peachy-keen relations. There will always be tension between people of different ages as the new generation virtually always turns out more progressive than the last. Growing unrest in the US with older people in government who have less-modern views on climate change and sexuality has and will lead to serious protests calling out those officials. Until more is done, my generation has the “OK, Boomer” meme to let some steam out of the roaring kettle, but it will only ever be a quick laugh while scrolling, not a revolution.