Faith Salie on the cheeky putdown "OK, Boomer"

Faith Salie on the Gen Z putdown "OK, Boomer"

The phrase "OK, Boomer" has become the generational shot heard 'round the world. 

It's deployed mainly by Gen Z kids (those born between 1995-2010), and it's all over social media. It's fashionable; it's political.

Twenty-five-year-old lawmaker Chlöe Swabrick, giving a speech about a bill to reduce carbon emissions, shut down an elderly colleague who heckled her in the New Zealand Parliament with the retort: "OK, Boomer."

And it's usually fired in ALL CAPS, because it's aimed at folks who need to squint to hear the message: Baby Boomers.

In the '90s, my Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) had "Talk to the hand" and "Whatever…" which demonstrated indifference in a benign, sitcom-y way. But it wasn't aimed at a specific demo. 

Which is why "OK, Boomer" is so devastating. Instead of saying "Shut up," which at least has a whiff of engagement, these kids are saying, 'Oh, you just keep talking, old person; we don't even roll our eyes at you; we look right past you to a future we're going to have to fix ourselves." 

And I think that's why I find "OK, Boomer" delightful. I shouldn't, because even though I'm not a Boomer, this meme can maim anyone over 30. But the "OK, Boomer" kids are not voicing indifference; they're making a difference. Like the climate change activists who delayed last week's Harvard-Yale football game and chanted it at the voice enjoining them to leave the field. These young people have inherited a world full of rising waters, disappearing life, crippling debt, and crumbling democracies. Gen Z is not catching ZZZZs. We've come a long way from the Silent Generation. 

Look, we all know you're not right just because you're young. But likewise, Boomers don't always deserve respect just because you're old. 

And if being OK, Boomered hurts your feelings, remember: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! How about a reality show called "OK, BOOMER!" in which old folks compete to figure out how to turn off the flashlight on their iPhones and reset their passwords without help from anyone under 55? Now, that's something that could bring generations together!

      
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Story produced by Robert Marston.