“Maybe if you stopped spending money on avocado toast, you could afford a house.”
If you’ve been active on the internet in the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed the rise of a new trend: Generation Z’s use of “OK, Boomer” to immediately shut down just about anyone older than them. The complete opposite of the “respect your elders” mantra, on which many older generations were brought up, this phrase serves as a fast retort to any condescending remarks about one’s age or knowledge of certain (often political) matters.
Braelyn Wekwerth, MCAS ‘23, explains her point of view: “It levels the playing field. If they can say ‘you’re just a teenager, what do you know,’ we can say ‘OK, Boomer’ in response.”
The myriad of misunderstandings between the generations is likely the result of fundamental differences between the times in which they were raised—such as a more forgiving job market, cheaper access to education, and (perhaps most infamously) a much healthier housing environment. Looming over all of these concrete differences, however, is a general shift in political views that, in today’s polarized climate, can lead to unfavorable interactions between members of different generations.
“Baby boomers, and even Gen X, have fallen into this habit of jumping to attacks on character when confronted with an argument they disagree with,” says Carly Fisher, MCAS ‘23. “It’s used as a way to discredit us [members of Generation Z] without any logical backing.”
In recent weeks, “OK Boomer” has spread across many platforms, with over 36,000 tweets and countless TikToks mentioning the phrase. Gen Z’s hallmark statement even found its way into politics. In an address to the New Zealand parliament on Tuesday, lawmaker Chlöe Swarbrick, who is 25 years old and one of the youngest members of the parliament, responded to insults about her age with “OK Boomer,” then continued her speech as if the interaction had never occurred.
Reactions to what the New York Times termed Gen Z’s “rallying cry” have been varied. Many praise it as a long-overdue reaction to condescending remarks from baby boomers, while others, mostly those on the receiving end of “OK, Boomer,” decrying it as unnecessary, or even ageist. One conservative radio host, Bob Lonsberry, expressed his opinion via a now-deleted tweet that said, “Boomer is the n-word of ageism.”
Fortunately, people on both sides of the argument rose up in outrage at this insensitive and inherently racist comment. Dictionary.com even weighed in with a biting response: “Boomer is an informal noun referring to a person born during the baby boom, especially one born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1965. The n-word is one of the most offensive words in the English language.”
Hopefully, the national attention being brought to the use of this new phrase will encourage the formation of better intergenerational relationships in an ever-increasingly polarized environment, and if that isn’t the result? At least for now, we can revel in the abundance of “OK, Boomer” jokes, before the phrase inevitably fades back into irrelevance, having made its mark on history.