When it comes to older generations judging younger ones, you may have heard clichés starting with “back in my day” or ending on “you have it easy now.”
That younger generation – particularly Generation Z (people born on or after 1997, according to Pew Research Center) – now has a snappy retort:
In recent weeks, that sentiment has taken off on social media as a rebuttal to the opinions and views of older folks (perhaps anyone over age 30) that younger folks disagree with.
Is someone on the internet denying climate change? Complaining about students marching against gun violence? Railing against millennials for spending their money on that most ubiquitous of early adulthood edibles, avocado toast???
Cue the “OK Boomer” meme.
Katie O’Shea, content manager of PR firm 3Points, said she thinks the trend stems from frustration felt by Generation Z, the oldest of whom would be turning 22 this year.
“I think there are a lot of people who feel like their feedback and their critiques aren’t being taken seriously,” said O’Shea, who is also a board member for the weekly tech event Chi Hack Night. “It shows the way the generations communicate amongst themselves is so different.
“I think when these critiques are laid out about younger generations from older generations, the younger generations kind of see it as, ‘Well, you’re not trying to talk to us – you’re talking to the echo chamber,’” she said.
O’Shea points out the issue some older people have with the “boomer” label, too.
“I do think older generations feel alienated by the ‘OK Boomer’ meme,” O’Shea said. “But I think at the same time, they don’t see the ways in which they’re alienating younger generations in making critiques of them – how they spend their money, how they spend time on their phone.”
O’Shea said the meme, which has spawned merchandise and song parodies along with heated discussions online, will meet the fate of other internet trends and fade into obscurity, but she’s hoping it gets people to leave their comfort zones – no matter what generation.
“At the end of the day, it’s an issue of whether you’re listening to a balanced group of people out there,” O’Shea said. “If you get too much into one area of the internet, maybe you’re hearing too much of the same thing and you don’t become aware of some of the other issues that are out there. This has the potential to do a lot of good.”