New slang terms are notoriously hard to keep up with, but there’s one phrase that millennials and Generation Z kids are using so widely that it’s been tough to miss. “OK Boomer” is being used by teens and young adults to let older generations know that, despite the fact that Baby Boomers have been in charge all these years, they do not have it all figured out.
When is the phrase used?
“OK Boomer” has become the go-to response whenever someone is perceived to be out of touch with modern ideals, social or environmental issues, or just refuses to let go of old misconceptions. It’s the eyeroll of the next generation, aimed right at anyone who has what they consider old-school beliefs. Generation Z-ers everywhere are calling people out for their use of plastic straws, grocery bags, and paper checks. They also think previous generations need to get up to speed on technology, or at least quit calling them out for their use of it.
But it doesn’t end there. Nick, a 14 year-old in California, describes the phenomenon. “The term ‘OK Boomer’ refers to people from the Baby Boomer generation. Mainly people who say things like ‘back in my day’ or ‘people don’t talk anymore, they always have their face two inches from a screen’ or things like that.” He explains, “It is mainly used in a sarcastic, mocking way. For example, if someone said that video games cause violence you would respond with, ‘OK Boomer.’”
Others use the phrase more out of frustration. They feel their elders are more than willing to criticize Gen Z for stereotypical traits (like a perceived unwillingness to grow up or sense of entitlement) or spout off outdated beliefs, but are unwilling to listen to others’ point of view. These Boomers see ideals like equality as unrealistic, ignoring all evidence to the contrary as times change.
“OK Boomer” isn’t just for Boomers.
If you think you’re safe from having a dismissive “OK Boomer” hurled your way just because you’re not from that generation, think again. The phrase is used for anyone with a differing opinion, particularly if it’s old fashioned. As @artbyeilis explains on Twitter, “boomer is a mindset. if you get an “ok boomer”, that means they found your take to be so outdated that you might as well be in your 60s” — so yes, you can get hit with an “OK Boomer” even if you’re in Gen Z yourself.
To be fair, the “OK Boomer” crowd might have a point. Generation Z is working hard to take care of our planet, reverse the effects of global warming, and find sustainable solutions for the climate crisis. They care about pressing political and social issues across the globe and closer to home. They’re also learning the importance of their role in the political arena at a younger age and using technology to accomplish amazing things. Just like kids point out the hypocritical things their parents say, “OK Boomer” is being used to show us how foolish some of our old habits are. It’s also a call to action for the older generation to take a critical look at their own world view.
To their credit, many from the older generation are taking it in stride. After all, folks over 30 have their own ways of (jokingly) retaliating against the playful jabs from kids these days.
While the “OK Boomer” phrase might put some on the defensive, it’s really just the younger generation’s way of telling us they’ve got this. They’re figuring their way through making the world a better place, and we can probably learn a thing or two from them — especially how to use our new cell phones.