‘OK, Boomer’ attitude widens generation gap

Hannah Holliday | Cartoonist

We get meme culture. But sometimes meme culture can perpetuate toxic ideas, stereotypes and cancel culture, no matter how harmless or truly representative a meme trend can seem. And often a meme isn’t the actual point of toxicity— it’s the attitude.

The “OK, Boomer” meme has exploded recently. What started out as a funny and relatively relevant response by younger generations has turned into a dismissive and cancel-culture-engaged stereotype that’s plastered throughout social media and seeping into the real world.

The phrase “OK, Boomer” has been used by millennials and Gen Zers in resentment toward Baby Boomers and how they respond to current issues like college tuition, environmentalism, economy, job availability, human rights, etc., or just not being empathetic or understanding of younger generations’ culture and world. It has developed into a dismissive or condescending phrase to try and shut down counter-perspectives or generational issues.

This rhetoric isn’t productive or respectful. It can venture into trolling territory — spamming Twitter posts with thousands of “OK, Boomer” comments. It reinforces stereotypes and deepens generational misunderstanding with more condescension and dismissiveness.

Older generations can be seen doing something similar — calling Gen Zers and millennials “snowflakes,” for example, or generalizing that everyone is offended all the time. It’s a two-way street, and both sides generalize and try to cancel the other generation’s experience or perspective. Both are in the wrong.

Being dismissive and judgmental of other generations’ experiences and opinions in egotistical and ignorant. Every generation has an experience that is valuable, both their present and past experiences. Generations should be open to learn from one another and engage in open discussion about generational differences in perspective and understanding instead of resulting to stereotyping and labeling each other as irrelevant or naive.

For Gen Zers and millennials especially, ignoring or dismissing the perspective and experience of generations who have been around way longer than we have is truly narcissistic and unwise. Being open to learning from people older than us and taking in older perspectives don’t diminish our own or mean we have to agree — it’s just wise to learn from people who have already been through the workforce, voted in many more elections, supported themselves financially in the American economy, etc.

For Baby Boomers: be open to the fresh perspectives and priorities of younger generations. Don’t be patronizing — be empathetic and open to change. Listen to our generational concerns, and don’t be afraid to learn from those younger than you. Trying to understand and support young passion and experience doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything.

Don’t dismiss another generation because you think they don’t understand you and think you’re naive or irrelevant. As a society, we’ve agreed that stereotyping is dangerous — the same goes for generational stereotypes. While born at different times, we’re all living together right now. Let’s work together instead of ostracizing each other and viewing other generations as stupid or wrong. The “OK, boomer” meme is funny, but the idea and attitude it fuels needs to stop.