“OK, Boomer” is Not OK

I’ve been following the “OK, Boomer” trend happening online at the moment, and it’s gotten to the point that I feel like I have something to say about it, even at the risk of sounding like an old man shaking his cane at the young whippersnappers.

For those of you who haven’t been following along, allow me to sum up. First, you need to understand the general generational breakdown of America.

  • The Silent Generation (1925-1945)
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
  • Generation X (1965-1980)
  • Millennials (1981-2000)
  • Gen Z (2001-present)

Next, you have to acknowledge that some have done their best to classify the members of these generations by very broad strokes. “Baby Boomers are racist” or “Millennials only care about avocado toast.” And this is where it all breaks down for me.

I fail to understand why it’s frowned on these days to stereotype a person based on their skin, sex, or orientation, but stereotyping based on age (or (some) religions) isn’t just allowed, it’s often humorously encouraged. (Religion is a separate issue which could really derail this conversation, but succinctly put, I think the test should be, “What if I were to make this same comment about a Muslim or a Jew? Would it still be funny/appropriate?” Yes, you can start splitting hairs about which religions you personally think are valid or which you think are harmful, but I think that misses the point. Just because you personally see no value in a thing doesn’t mean it has no value, and doesn’t give you the right to mock it.)

But back to my point.

Every “Ok, Boomer,” and “Millennials are killing” statement made does nothing to contribute to a constructive conversation. It only isolates us by putting us into silos. Ageism is not okay, and that’s what this whole trend is all about on both sides of the argument. You’ve got generations of people dismissing other generations of people based on nothing more than preconceived notions about how that generation thinks and behaves. There’s a cognitive dissonance there, and I think it’s wrong not to acknowledge it and try to correct it.

“But the Boomers were here first, and they messed up our country and elected Donald Trump.”

“But the Millennials have a terrible work ethic and need to be taught how the real world works.”

Those objections? They might apply to individuals, but they’re far from 100% fact. And when someone you’ve painted with that oh-so-broad brush objects to the coating you gave them? They get hurt, and another little wedge is driven between us.

Of course, as I write this, I begin to wonder if this isn’t just the ageist equivalent of me saying “All ages matter.” I understand the anxiety and fear many Millennials and Gen Z-ers are feeling. The lack of real jobs, the bleak future, the feeling that they’re underrepresented in the halls of power, where decisions are made that have very real impacts on them. I don’t mean to dismiss those feelings. But instead of using a misguided ageist approach, why not band together with the people who agree with the things you’re trying to get done?

There’s as many Millennials as there are Boomers this year in America. Next year, there will be more. Get out and vote and start doing what you can to change the country for the better, as opposed to posting witty memes that exacerbate the problem.

Sigh. This came out much preachier than I wanted it to. All I wanted to do was explain why I haven’t been posting or liking any of the “OK, Boomer” comments that I’ve been seeing everywhere. I’m not a Boomer, and I’m not a Millennial, so maybe it’s not on me to try and solve the problem.

Doesn’t make this Gen Xer not want to try, though . . .

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