BY ANDREW WANG
With the prevalence of internet trends capitalizing on the growing generational gap between baby boomers and Generation Z, members of both generations have varying opinions on the value of memes in political discussion.
On a national scale, this growing divide has most recently manifested itself in the form of the viral “OK Boomer” internet meme, a phrase used by millennials and Generation Z as a retort against older generations for their conservative slant on various political, social and economic issues.
“That’s where you get the expression, ‘OK Boomer,’” says science teacher Thomas Dooner, a baby boomer himself. “[It’s] like, ‘OK boomer, you don’t understand what I’m facing at all and I’m tired of hearing you lecture me.’”
Increases in the prices of higher education and property have fueled this tension. According to CNBC, today’s Harvard graduate is spending $44,990 a year for tuition, compared to $17,100 a year in 1988, adjusted for inflation—a 163 percent increase. Since 1988, public university tuition fees have on average increased by 213 percent, contributing vastly to the collective $1.4 trillion owed in student loan debt. This economic shift is something that is not always recognized by older generations.
“At a certain point, if you’re a young person and you’re hearing a person of my generation tell you that ‘Back in my day, I worked in a pizza shop and put myself through law school,’ you just get tired of hearing it,” says Dooner, who believes that many of his generational peers are unaware of how the economic landscape has shifted in recent decades.
Public knowledge of this trend continued to spread after several instances of its usage appeared in the news, including in an article by The New York Times, an incident in New Zealand where a young politician responded with the phrase after an older member of Parliament made a comment on her age, and controversial comparisons of the phrase to race-based discrimination.
“I think it’s funny,” says junior Lauren Pritchard of the meme. “It’s not explicitly attacking anything.”
Her viewpoint reflects the sentiments of the Generation Z-dominated social media platform TikTok, where the phrase originated. Posts tagged with “#OKBoomer” have collectively garnered over 1 billion views.
Some believe that the phrase may be a step in the right direction to get older generations to listen to the younger generations.
“I’d feel the same way,” says math teacher Mike Deckelmann in reference to Generation Z’s complaints.
Others have varying opinions on the level of productivity that such phrases bring to the table.
“Part of what it’s about is the inability of past generations to understand the complexity, nuances and progressive ideas of the new generation, but it is totally dismissive of having a real conversation,” social studies teacher Marc Stafford says.
Student activists like senior Pascale Montgomery, who recently led around 100 students from across the county in a local climate strike organized through social media, also have opinions on the matter.
“I don’t think that it’s necessarily productive to attack someone’s character just because they’re older,” Montgomery says. “We need to be on the same page.”