boomers really hate the ‘ok boomer’ meme lmao
Millennials reported on it, boomers quickly wrote about how offensive it is. Now the joke is well and truly dead. Hope you’re all happy.
An oft-discussed aspect of our current Extremely Online Era is that we cycle through information and cultural moments faster than ever before. People emerge in our collective consciousness only to be immediately cancelled (the ol’ “milkshake duck” hypothesis). We can watch the trailer for a TV show that was years in the making, binge all 12 episodes in a weekend and then be sick of it long before it gets renewed for a second season. And jokes, by the time they reach the outer spheres of the information superhighway (the dark online places populated by minion memes and people who believe essential oils can cure cancer), will be so overdone you’ll wonder how they were ever funny in the first place. The latter is exactly what happened to the “ok boomer” meme.
For anyone still unaware of the meme of the moment, we’ll explain. “Ok boomer”, the ultimate way to shut up an older person talking down to you about the woes of “today’s generation”, has been rumbling away over on TikTok since at least September (which, in internet time, is eons). But it really exploded in prominence after the New York Times — yes, really! — published an article describing the comeback as “the end of friendly generational relations”. The piece, from digital culture writer Taylor Lorenz, showcased Gen Z TikTok-hosted art projects and film clips in which the phrase is deployed to ridicule smug boomers, as well as shining a spotlight on a range of “ok boomer” merch. We’re extremely into the Off-White-esque “ok boomer” longsleeve -- yours for just $24.99!
Although it had been bubbling over for a while, it was only after the New York Times piece that the “ok boomer” explosion really went crazy. While Taylor Lorenz is well known for her youth-focused, online culture reportage, let’s be honest: the audience the New York Times piece exposed the meme to are historically the very people that the “ok boomer” meme is making fun of. And, unlike the rest of us, they’re also the people who have not learned that when someone is making fun of you on the internet, the best thing to do is to turn off your mentions and walk away for the short period of time it takes for the joke to die and be completely forgotten. Remember that Paul Rudd Hot Ones meme we were all obsessed with before the boomer boom? No, of course you don’t, because it died as soon as it blew up. Take it from someone who’s got into their fair share of humiliating, pointless Twitter spats — engaging just makes it worse. It’s like the admins used to say: don’t feed the trolls.
It seems that no-one’s offered the boomers this sage advice though, given the journalists among them have spent the last week churning out a seemingly endless torrent of reaction articles explaining why ‘ok boomer’ is offensive, hurtful and untrue. Without any kind of irony, the generation who popularised the “snowflake” stereotype have complained that “Gen Z aren’t as bad off as they think they are”. It’s been called a pro-Russian slur and perhaps even more bizarrely, “the n-word of ageism”. Displaying a complete lack of insight into how the internet works and the levels of irony that have come to define Gen Z humour, media companies across the country have spat out a level of overreaction unmatched since your mum saw you in a Neopets chatroom and thought you were being groomed.
As well as being extremely grating to read, these pieces encapsulate the growing chasm between generations on the internet -- just as the New York Times predicted, however hyperbolic it may have seemed at the time. Much has been written about how websites like Twitter, which allow users to curate their news feed and only follow and engage with people who agree with them, have fostered deeper political divides than we’ve seen in recent history. The theory goes that the way we’ve learned to use the internet has made us completely unable to empathise with other people. To say one thing in defence of the boomers who are writing these terrible articles, all of this rings true.
Gen Z, rather than wasting energy on explaining to older generations how their actions have made them the first generation to be worse off than the one before them, have decided to simply dismiss them from a conversation to which they’re not contributing anything productive. These boomer journalists, rather than considering the ideology and valid frustrations behind the meme, have responded with yet more “kids these days” rhetoric. In their accusations of ageism and frankly absurd whataboutery, these boomer writers are perpetuating the cultural myopia which led to the creation of the meme in the first place.
But perhaps worse than all that, they’ve committed the cardinal sin of the internet — they’ve ruined the joke. “Ok boomer” was a spontaneous Gen Z creation. It was sullied by millennial writers revelling in how funny it is (meta!), and then ruined even further by boomer writers complaining about how hurtful and unfair it is. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we should probably lay the thing to rest and call a moratorium on talking about it altogether. RIP “ok boomer” meme, a joke so ephemeral it ended before my longsleeve even arrived in the post.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.