Intergenerational bickering is eternal. Older adults have long bemoaned “these damn kids and their music!”
The bickering between baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1965, and millennials (and, to a lesser extent, Gen Z), have been particularly nasty at times. Not only do they hate each other’s cultural tastes, but somehow, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, arguing about who ruined the economy has been brought into the debate as well.
Millennials have famously been blamed for “killing” various industries, from casual dining to fine jewelry, apparently because they’d rather spend their money on avocado toast. Meanwhile, younger generations resent Boomers for irresponsible spending that led to the recession in the first place.
Rather than continuing to argue futilely with older generations about low wages and the cost of higher education, millennials and Gen Z recently adopted “OK Boomer” as a dismissal of the argument, a refusal to continue engaging.
Petty as it may be, it’s hard not to relish in older folks, the ones who keep referring to today’s youth as oversensitive snowflakes, decrying the use of the phrase as unjust ageism. Bloomberg columnist Tyler Cowan referred to the meme as “the latest linguistic weapon of generational warfare being deployed against us.” Who’s oversensitive now?
The phrase has quickly become more than just a meme. In November 2019, Chlöe Swarbrick, a 25-year-old parliamentary member in New Zealand, was heckled about her age by an older member of parliament as she discussed an urgent need to address climate change. Clearly not having it, Swarbrick muttered, “OK Boomer,” in response before continuing.
Exchanges like these show the often-political nature of intergenerational disputes, whether it was college students (ironically, the young boomers) protesting the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s or Reagan-era teens protesting the cultural conservatism of the 1980s.
If “OK Boomer” is indeed a “weapon of generational warfare,” Boomers are at a severe disadvantage. It’s largely being deployed online, a medium where older folks are famously inept.