‘Ok Boomer’ fuels intergenerational clash

Honorable Mention, Editorial/Opinion Writing

Baby Boomers are a part of the generation born between 1946 and 1964, recently recognized for their political views and social intolerance. In recent months, the term “boomer” has fueled a generational battle between the baby boomers and younger generations. The phrase “OK boomer,” has gained popularity among Generation Z teens and Millennials, as its purpose is to degrade the baby boomer who’s opinions or perspectives are antiquated or generally conservative, and hits at their inaction about current crises such as climate change or gender inequality.

Although the witty comeback started out as a joke, some baby boomers have taken offense with the phrase, claiming it is derogatory towards older people. Not only does this phrase create inter-generational turmoil, it highlights the importance of productive conversation in regards to political progress and healthy democracy. Younger generations and older generations need to understand this importance and recognize that a phrase doesn’t summarize an entire generation.

Who is characterized as a “boomer” and what is said to be a “boomer moment” differs from what most believe. Although “boomer” has been historically used to refer to people born between the mid 1940s and the mid 1960s, it has recently transformed into a term that refers to those with conservative or outdated opinions. For example, anti-abortion advocates and climate change deniers are often dubbed “boomers” regardless of age. Furthermore, the term is not always aimed to offend. According to senior Julia Lang,  a “boomer moment” can be a small judgement or misunderstanding between teens and the older person.

“I told my grandparents that I’m applying to the UCs and they don’t really understand that schools are hard to get into so they kept telling me, ‘oh that’s great you’ll definitely get in.’ I’d say that was an ok boomer moment,” Lang said. “I think the ok boomer phrase is funny because a lot of the older generation doesn’t understand the culture that Generation Z has developed. It’s relatable for many teens to just lightly make fun of the older generations. Most people don’t mean any harm.”

Also, people from older generations often disagree with fashion and what is appropriate, such as piercings and tattoos. “I get comments from my grandparents about what I’m wearing or how I’m sitting but I wouldn’t necessarily say they are trying to be disrespectful. They just see the world differently than I do,” senior Sonya Harrison said. 

The phrase is teens’ defense mechanism. “We are all teenagers growing up and it’s hard to see the world from others points of view. I think the phrase is just a way of saying we just don’t understand [boomers] because we think so differently than they do,” Harrison said.

Misunderstandings between the generations exist because of generally different beliefs and lifestyles. Although not always easy to understand, there are valuable lessons to be learned across generations. “I think it’s really important to have conversations with people from older generations to understand why they are the way the are,” Harrison said. Teens today live vastly different lives than those of their parents or grandparents, especially due to the rise of technology and social media.

These differences cause a gap between teens and older people, because neither group can fully understand each other’s experience, including hardships and difficulties. However, a closer look may reveal that teens have more in common with older people than they think. “I think it is important to have conversations with older generations because sometimes our generation tends to get wrapped up in trying to be as socially progressive as possible and we stray away from issues that are more pressing or immediate. There’s a lot we can learn,” junior Mia Cohen said. 

“These differences definitely cause a disconnect between our generation and older ones because we don’t really understand what it was like when they were growing up or the motives for their ways of thinking,” Harrison said. Being open minded to learning from other generations will connect and enrich one’s perspective on various issues and life itself. It is vital to unite the generational gap to maintain traditions and have positive social progression. “Older people have a lot more experience in life than we do and they have acquired knowledge through this that we can’t just disregard,” Cohen said. “We all have a lot to learn from each other, regardless of age or generation.”

This story was an honoree in the 2020 Lesher Awards competition.