"OK, boomer.” That’s what my daughter said to me the other week when she was helping me set up my new phone.
When she said it, I was confused. I had simply been telling her how lucky she was to have all this technology because, when I was her age, we only had one phone on the wall in the kitchen for my two sisters and me to use. And I am certainly not a member of the baby boomer generation. I am a very proud, card-carrying member of Generation X, the forgotten generation.
I could tell she meant the expression in a playful way, but I also know my kids well enough to read between the lines. And in that space was a sense of exhaustion of hearing about “the old days” and how much easier this generation has it. Beneath that phrase lies a tension between the generations that is not going away.
If you were to ask members of older generations what they thought about kids today, you might hear words like “entitled,” “weak,” or “irresponsible.” On the flip side, younger generations tend to see their elders as intolerant, selfish, and out of touch.
Still, I was interested to know what she thought the expression meant. She told me it was a term people of her generation (Generation Z, or “Zoomers”) and other generations (millennials and Generation Alpha) use to refer to older people’s apparent lack of understanding of things that seem second nature to her generation.
According to Dictionary.com, the phrase OK, boomer is “a viral Internet slang phrase used, often in a humorous or ironic manner, to call out or dismiss out-of-touch or close-minded opinions associated with the baby boomer generation and older people more generally.”
Her generation has a point. Older generations do tend to dismiss the challenges, insights, or ideas of the younger generations, citing their lack of experience. So they are not all wrong in their perspective. But they’re also not completely right either.
The Other Side
There is the other side to this generational back-and-forth. For instance, without members of Generation X, there would be no beloved smartphones. It was the baby boomers who brought us the Internet and fought for many societal changes such as women’s rights and civil rights.
Sometimes younger people see things as “back in the day,” but they fail to see that those things have a direct effect on their lives now. And all that experience we’ve earned and tell you about? It does have worth. And it could prevent you from making some of the same mistakes we made.
Take that, Zoomers.
Meet in the Middle
That is the problem, though. Suddenly, these discussions become territorial, with both sides lobbing generalizations at each other and defending their generation. Those kinds of conversations paint entire generations with one broad stroke. Sure, there are people in both age groups who might fall into these stereotypes. But that is not everyone, and to think that way isn’t fair. All of us need to remember that.
I talked to my daughter about this divide and the lack of understanding between our generations. Surprisingly, she listened. Then I listened—without talking—to her. And I truly heard her and her concerns and perspective.
So how do we keep this conversation going? Well, moving forward, perhaps we older generations could present our insights and opinions in a less imposing and more open way. And the younger generations could help us and talk with us in a more understanding and open way. Hint: Phrases like “OK, boomer” are not going to help.
The bottom line is that Boomers and Zoomers each have something important to offer our world. Let’s take advantage of it.