Comment Writer Colette Fountain discusses the harmful consequences of the internet trend
The phrase ‘OK Boomer’ seems to have swept across the internet almost overnight, becoming the new popular insult for the disillusioned ‘Gen Z’ in retaliation to ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘out-of-touch’ ‘baby boomers’. As someone born in 2000, I don’t really fit into the Gen Z or ‘millennial’ category, however, I tend to correlate more to Gen Z who were born from 2000 onwards. Yet, even I hadn’t heard of ‘OK boomer’ until The New York Times featured an article interviewing a number of Gen Z-ers profiting from this recent trend. While for many people ‘OK boomer’ is simply an entertaining meme, there are some flaws which potentially undermine its political message.
Most people probably know ‘OK boomer’ from the range of memes and merchandise that has been produced as a result of its popularity. This side of the ‘OK boomer’ trend is far more lighthearted and meant purely as an entertainment form. It allows Gen Z to express themselves creatively whether that be through Soundcloud raps, knock-off ‘OK boomer’ logo merch, or group costumes. The phrase was partially created in response to the ‘snowflake’ stereotype imposed on younger generations, so it could be argued that older generations started this generational ‘war’. The response of boomers to this trend has generated further memes as it highlights how they might really be the ‘snowflake’ generation after all. Under most circumstances, it is meant as a mild insult which adds to the entertainment value as it is no more offensive than an eyeroll. Many of the companies producing ‘OK boomer’ merchandise are owned by Gen Z or millennials meaning the meme could be more beneficial than simply another funny trend as it gives some young people more financial freedom. However, there is an irony in this. One of the main beliefs younger generations are trying to push is climate change as they rally for politicians and companies to do more to protect the planet, yet by marketing the ‘OK boomer’ phrase, they are adding to the fast fashion industry which is so bad for the planet.
While the phrase is mostly used as a casual remark, it is not always entirely harmless in my opinion. One of the main complaints from my generation, myself included, is that older generations do not listen to us and we lack a voice in many political situations. It only takes one look at the backlash against Greta Thunberg to realise that many politicians simply do not value the opinions of younger members of society, leading them to be very dismissive. I too find this incredibly frustrating as it implies that somehow, we are less valuable to society, however, the phrase ‘OK boomer’ arguably does the exact same thing but reversed. Though mostly used when boomers are being discriminatory or offensive, it still uses the same dismissive tone used by older generations and doesn’t open up a dialogue for discussion. I do understand the frustration towards older generations whose political beliefs do not align with our own, however, it would be much more productive to have a meaningful conversation about politics in the hopes of better educating them on some of the issues we face rather than dismissing them as ignorant and unsympathetic. Another issue I have with this trend is that it seemingly originated on TikTok which has a target demographic of predominantly teenagers meaning politicians and other important figures are unlikely to come across these videos which express younger views and even if they do, I doubt they would take a video of someone lipsyncing to a song called ‘OK boomer’ very seriously.
Some critics of the phrase on Twitter have referred to the trend as ‘ageist’ which is defined as ‘discrimination or unfair treatment based on a person’s age’. Personally, I don’t necessarily agree with this as it is intended to be lighthearted and is no worse than the use of ‘snowflake’ towards younger generations. One Twitter user even went as far as to say ‘”Ok Boomer” is the n-word of ageism’. This is an absolutely ridiculous claim which belittles the discrimination and racism caused by ‘the n-word.’ While reactions like these help enhance the meme’s popularity as it shows just how ‘snowflake’-like older generations can be, it does highlight how this trend might make us no better than the boomers it complains about. With the upcoming general election, I believe there are far better ways young people can make a difference than with the ‘OK Boomer’ meme.