In a country obsessed with social media, popular internet memes spread rapidly. Recently, a new meme has stirred major controversy. “OK, Boomer” is being used by many young people to refute the opinions and values of the older Baby Boomers, which refers to the generation born directly after the end of World War II.
Generational differences are a hot-button issue in politics as older generations hold relatively more conservative views than younger ones. They also hold the youth to strict standards, which the younger generation often resist. The prevalence of the “OK, Boomer” meme demonstrates unprecedented levels of animosity between generations.
Generation Z, born beginning in the late 1990s, seems to have little patience left for their elders. We are tired of waiting for our future outcomes to look different. These feelings, combined with extreme political polarization, make it unsurprising that generational conflict has resurfaced in the form of a meme.
Ever since President Trump was elected, no one seems to agree on much of anything. This meme’s high potential for fallout should be alarming in a nation that has already had its identity challenged in recent years.
Americans today are often more likely to fight a stranger on the internet than lend a helping hand to their neighbor. They are quicker to place a label on someone before they even get a chance to share their story. This meme has become another pernicious label that Americans throw at each other.
Many within our generation have used “OK, Boomer” to shame strangers for their beliefs. There are some instances when this shame is necessary but in others, these call-outs can have unintended consequences.
Even though “OK, Boomer” is widely perceived as a statement of youth empowerment, it could also make our country even more divided. Many politicians use divisive tactics for personal gain — most notably the president himself.
President Trump has found many ways to divide Americans, whether along religious, ethnic or heritage lines. Age is just one more relatively neutral factor the president and other politicians may weaponize for political gain. To prevent further division, it is important for both sides to realize that each can learn from the other.
While many people of our generation may want to cast aside the past and those who embody it, it is important to remember that Boomers can teach us a lot about how the world works through the wisdom they possess. However, older generations should also be open to the ambitions of the youth.
We must learn to effectively communicate with those who may see the world differently and realize that meaningful change can be made through intellectual debate.
It is also essential that we as Americans stop putting more unnecessary labels on each other. All of us play a role in moving the country forward. Out of many, we are one — it is crucial to remember this creed during these divisive times.