“OK Boomer,” a newly popularized term has quickly worked its way into today’s culture. The phrase has been mentioned in many recent news articles with writers divided between supporting and condemning the use of the phrase. “Baby Boomer,” or “Boomer” for short was originally a term to describe someone born at the end or in the decade after World War II, with most people settling on the years 1944-1964. After World War II, the U.S saw a major spike in births or a baby boom, hence the generational nickname. The term later became somewhat of an insult to be used against older persons, specifically Baby Boomers. “OK Boomer” shows that younger generations disagree with the widespread beliefs of older generations.
Many see the Baby Boomer Generation at fault for causing some of today’s biggest issues. Among younger generations there is a belief that Boomers entered adulthood at a time of economic prosperity and opportunity, and didn’t provide the same for future generations. In fact many younger people believe that Boomers mismanaged the economy, and left a financial disaster in their wake. Criticism of younger generations by Boomers has also led to poor relations, and little political agreement. The political polarity among Boomers and Millennials is part of what led to the use of “OK Boomer.” During a debate regarding climate change, a 25-year-old politician from New Zealand used this quote while giving a speech. The millennial lawmaker was heckled by an older member of Parliament during her speech, and responded with the popular saying, which brought the issue of its divisiveness to the political stage.
Speaking as a member of one of the younger generations, the use of the phrase shouldn’t be seen as offensive or out of malice. It’s simply become a catchphrase for those of us who feel criticized and condescended upon by older people. Younger generations want to hold the Boomer generation accountable for the negative effects they had the quality of life today. The use of the phrase isn’t about age, rather conflicts between generations. Though ageism is a real issue, this case isn’t one where it is present. “OK Boomer” is lighthearted humor used to respond to criticism.
The hashtag #OkBoomer has been trending on social media in recent weeks, with some using it in humorous context and others denouncing it. In a since-deleted tweet by Bob Lonsberry, the conservative talk show host likened “Boomer” to using the n-word. Lonsberry claimed the phrase was ageist towards older generations. This comparison is bizarre, and it is hard to compare one of the most vile words in history with a trendy catchphrase. It’s clear why Lonsberry’s hot take was ridiculed by most on social media, “Boomer” doesn’t have the troubling history that this comparison’s counterpart has. “Boomer” has been an acceptable term for this generation up until recent weeks, when it found its way onto social media through memes. It was these memes that offended Boomers, and led to distasteful takes like Lonsberry’s. Chances are if you can say one of the words and not the other, you shouldn’t compare them!
Ironically, Boomers have often criticized younger generations for being too sensitive, labeling them “snowflakes.” Millennials have been pinned for causing their generational issues, when much of the blame can be put on the generations that preceded them. Millennials and Gen Z-ers are ridiculed for airing their complaints about issues like student loan debt, and living on minimum wage. Boomers lived during a time of economic prosperity and could pay for college with a summer job. College tuition cost as little as $1,500 per year, which in today’s world is about $3,200. Today’s students pay about $10,000 at public universities, and $35,000 or more at private universities.
The Baby Boomer generation could support a family with a minimum wage, something younger generations could only dream of. Workers of today can barely, if even, support themselves alone. Author Caitlin Fisher writes, “Millennials have faced extraordinary levels of student loan debt only to be told that they need to take unpaid internships or cobble together a living wage with part time work, [and] when we dare to complain, the boomers tell us that in their day, they put in their time and we have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” The “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” sentiment isn’t as easily followed as it used to be, because of just how much the world has changed. If Boomers tried to understand how the world has changed, and the plights of newer generations then there may be less disagreement between us.
“OK Boomer” is used because younger generations feel they aren’t being listened to. Not every Baby Boomer is deeply offended by the phrase’s use, just like not every Baby Boomer is critical of younger generations. The phrase shouldn’t be used to dismiss the opinions of older people, but rather lead to a possible discussion. Different generations should strive to better understand each other so that issues like this don’t arise.
Patrick O’Toole is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.