‘OK BOOMER’ OPINION: COMEBACK, MEME FUELS GENERATIONAL DIVIDE

NATHAN STEPHANY, TRUMPET GUEST WRITER

“Boomer is the x–word of ageism. Being hip and flip does not make bigotry OK,” Bob Lonsberry, a conservative radio host, said in a later deleted tweet.

The claim is a sample of a debate that has raged in recent months over perceived ageism against the Baby Boomer generation when people say, “OK Boomer.” Boomer refers to the phrase baby boomer, a term used to refer to the generation born between 1946 and 1964.

The generation is typically associated with a form of privilege, as most members were seen to benefit from growing up in post-war America. They were the generation to reach peak levels of health and fitness, as well as workplace income, according to vox.com.

“OK Boomer,” began as a meme and a comeback for younger generations to use when older generations showed resistance to progressive ideas.

The saying parallels similar condescending tones of other generations. In November 2019, the phrase popped up at a parliament meeting in New Zealand. On Nov. 23, 2019, when climate change protesters stormed the field of a Harvard-Yale football game, the phrase was chanted when the protestors were asked to leave the field.

Those in positions of power often boomers can represent a roadblock to younger generations, especially as the youth attempt to enact change, which the generations of boomers at times seem to resist.

“There are stereotypes about different age groups and have been for a long time,” Dr. Cynthia Bane, Wartburg professor of psychology said. “Often, older generations look at younger generations and say things like, ‘they don’t take responsibility for things, they don’t know how good they have it, they’re foolish.’ Younger generations look at older generations and say things like, ‘they’re stuck in their ways, they’re rigid, they’re out of touch, they’re judgmental.’ It’s not new.”

The term, “OK Boomer,” itself, since its popularization in recent months, has cropped up millions of times on social media platforms and has been referred to as ageist.

The phrase is representative of a divide between generations, and could be considered dangerous in some cases. “It’s insulting because we’re in a culture where individuality is highly prized,” Bane said. “By saying the phrase, you’re saying ‘I’m dismissing you because of your age. I’m not listening to any of your individual aspects. I’m not looking at your knowledge or experience. You are not an individual to me.’”

Prior to “OK Boomer,” the phrase “Millennial” had been used in recent years to discredit people due to youth. Most Wartburg students fall into the generations of either Millennial or Gen Z. Now that younger generations have found a phrase to use as dismissively as Millennial was used, there have been claims that the term is offensive.

“Many people who are aging have fears of becoming irrelevant,” Bane said. “They have fears of stereotypes of growing older coming true. Shutting someonedown by exploiting those fears can be hurtful.”

The ability of social media and its usage of the phrase has led to its popularity. Being able to say two words to shut down a potential argument from a person that is a baby boomer efficient for someone to dismiss someone else.

“There will always be a generational divide,” Bane said. “When social media pushes easy tools like ‘OK Boomer,’ it encourages us not listen or have a possibly beneficial conversation. It lets us shoot other people down without hearing what they have to say and that is dangerous, no matter your age or generation.”

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