Long-winded Facebook comment debates about trigger-sensitive topics aren’t a thing of the past, but young millennials and Gen Zers have concocted a minimalistic retort dealt heavy-handedly in response to conservative viewpoints.
It’s just that simple and to many aging Americans, it cuts deep. At over 36,000 mentions on Twitter and hundreds of cheeky TikTok masterpieces, the matter-of-fact response is simply a long-awaited clap back from young Americans aimed at older generations for years of disparaging comments about millennial and Gen Z work ethic, political views, spending habits and maturity.
"In my perspective, saying ‘OK boomer’ is the epitome of the southern colloquialism that you must ‘pick your own battles because some just aren’t worth it,’" said Olivia Blanton, a 17-year-old from Madison.
It’s the least abrasive way to acknowledge that some things will never change and America’s youngest have given up the fight for "facts, evidence or reality," explained one tweet that has been retweeted over 26,000 times.
My gf’s explanation of why “ok boomer” became a thing is spot on ✔️ pic.twitter.com/tRprQ4ImlU— Ok Boober (@TheGallowBoob) November 3, 2019
Know Your Meme, an in-depth database chronicling meme histories, defined "OK boomer" "as a dismissive retort often used to disregard or mock Baby Boomers and those who are perceived as old-fashioned and being out-of-touch."
It’s important to note that one doesn’t have to have been born between the years of 1946 and 1964 to receive that response. Know Your Meme traced the saying back to April 2018 where Twitter users dispensed the dig in political threads. And now there seems to be no limit for this return as boomers respond on the defense. "It’s a funny way to say that we’ve had enough lectures about what it was like in your day," said Rylen Dempsey, a ninth-grader at Vestavia Hills High School.
It’s a coming-of-age response to almost a decade of "libtard" and "snowflake" jabs, Blanton said. It’s more than a tongue in cheek rebuttal to the old fogies, but rather another way for people to craft their identities, said Gheni Platenburg, assistant professor of journalism at Auburn University. The trend can be seen from multiple perspectives: A breakdown of compelling conversation and debate or a quick way to address frustrating conversations that have come and gone.
And if you thought the TikToks, Twitter threads and memes were enough, here’s the unofficial theme song of the trend. Written and produced by Jonathan Williams, a 20-year-old college student, the Soundcloud bop has been the seemingly ideal accompaniment for the majority of "OK boomer" content.
And the merch sales are thriving — all of which are being promoted by students younger than 20.
The trend may appear to be just another chapter of young hoodlums being young hoodlums, but both sides are taking those two words to heart. Bob Lonsberry, a radio host and Twitter user, sparked a violent conversation about ageism when he compared "OK boomer" to another racially derogatory term. And Alabama’s students aren’t surprised by the anger.
"In not accepting the phrase for what it is, Baby Boomers are really showing how little what we say actually means to them," Blanton said.
And "what it means" has become a national conversation of keynotes from The New York Times, NBC News, the Deseret News and USA Today. And then the Chicago Tribune started the funeral procession for the once "clever, if biting, retort," saying that adults killed the mystery and banter of it all.
Aside from the now-muddled retort, the question of whether the intention and message will sink in and make a difference rises with the number of Twitter mentions and TikTok likes. Will it matter?
"I don’t know," Platenburg said. The gravity of the saying "OK boomer" was forever stilted by the mechanism it was originally pushed from, she said. TikTok is young, relatively fresh and somewhat of a mystery to older generations at this point. The cross-generational understanding was immediately affected by the platform.
"You can’t just upload a TikTok video and expect to fully confront an issue," Platenburg said, but it will be interesting to see how the platform and the public’s perspective of it change over time as popularity grows.
And although he is not the most active on TikTok, Dempsey said he believes the platform is a safe haven — a social media venue that hasn’t been completely absorbed by the mainstream. Whether older generations are willing and able to make changes after being hit with an "OK boomer," doesn’t seem to matter to Dempsey and Blanton. It’s for them.
"We’ve gotten lectured forever about all the things we’re doing wrong, and it’s our way of saying, ‘What else you got to yell at us for?’" Dempsey said. "It’s the drop the mic after decades of being judged for who we are and what we do."