Updated: Jan 17
By Katherine FitzGerald
The catchphrase “OK, boomer” started as an Internet trend, but it has quickly become a rallying cry for Generation Z. The phrase showcases an entire generation’s attitude towards the adults who seem to dismiss their concerns and also critiques the ideas of the past generations that have shaped the politics, economy, and environment of today’s world.
The phrase gained popularity on the app TikTok in early November when a man of the Baby Boomer generation posted a video ranting about the Millennials and Generation Z, saying they have “Peter Pan Syndrome,” or the inability to grow up. He claimed the young generation’s “think that the Utopian ideals that they have in their youth are somehow going to translate into adulthood." Thousands of teens and 20-somethings have fired back and the phrase “OK, boomer” has been used as a retaliation against past generations, but in a somewhat of a joking manner. The catchphrase has spread to other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
Millennials have also allied with Gen Z around this phenomenon. The ‘Boomers’ they are referring to aren’t completely from the Baby Boomer generation. They are aiming their message toward the adults that have shaped the society they grew up in- people they consider old. This does include the Baby Boomers, but also Generation X. The Boomers were born between 1944 and 1964 and Gen X between 1965 - 1979.
The catchphrase is appealing because it flips the script on generational relationships. The older generations have been telling young people what to do for years. “Ok, boomer” challenges the idea that just because adults are older, they are always right. Due to the rise of student loan debt and financial instability, plus the increasing threat of climate change, young people do not want to listen to the establishment that has created the problems they will deal with for probably the rest of their lives.
However, some believe that “OK, boomer” is ageist and slightly disrespectful towards the older generations. It also seen as another dumb Internet meme that will eventually pass. But, at its root is signifies much more than just an Internet trend. “OK, boomer” is not intended to stereotype the boomers, but to get them to focus on issues the younger generations find important.
Phoebe Hall, a sophomore at B-CC, agrees with the message “OK, boomer” sends. She believes the two-word retort “is a way to communicate to [older] generations that society today is much different and more progressive than ever, and they need to respect the aspects that their perhaps close-minded thinking once disapproved of.”
The message “Ok, boomer” is sending is not new. Resentment towards the Baby Boomers has been crystallizing since the mid-2010’s, when they started referring to Millennials became as the “Snowflake Generation.” Boomers view the young adults of today as less resilient and more sensitive than past generations.
“OK, boomer” sums up the frustration that the generations following the Baby Boomers feel. Dr. Hunter Hogewood, an AP U.S. History teacher at B-CC, thinks the catchphrase “is a funny internet trend mostly, but at its root there is an annoyance that my generation [Gen X] felt towards the Boomers. The Boomers were the generation that got everything they wanted. ‘OK, boomer’ is a nice little poke to the older generation that have messed things up previously.”
What is appealing about the phrase is that it says a lot in just two words. Gen Z is fighting the misconceptions older generations have about them, without really fighting at all. The most important thing is that is starts a conversation about the generational divide. It is letting the kids talk, and forcing the adults to listen.