The phrase “OK Boomer” has grow to be standard over the previous two years as an all-purpose retort with which younger folks dismiss their elders for being “old style”.
“OK Boomer” started as a meme in TikTok movies, however our analysis exhibits the catchphrase has grow to be rather more. The easy two-word phrase is used to precise private politics and on the similar time consolidate an consciousness of intergenerational politics, wherein Gen Z are coming to see themselves as a cohort with shared pursuits.
What does ‘OK Boomer’ imply?
The viral development of the “OK Boomer” meme on social media will be traced to Gen Z musician @peterkuli’s remix OK Boomer, which he uploaded to TikTok in October 2019. The music was broadly adopted in meme creations by his Gen Z friends, who name themselves “Zoomers” (the Gen Z cohort born in 1997-2012).
Within the two-minute sound clip @peterkuli distilled an already-popular sentiment right into a two-word phrase, accusing “Boomers” (these born throughout the 1946–64 postwar child increase) of being condescending, being racist and supporting Donald Trump, who was then US president.
How TikTok received political
In essence, the “OK Boomer” meme emerged as a shorthand for Gen Z to push again in opposition to accusations of being a “fragile” era unable to cope with hardship. But it surely has developed into an all-purpose retort to older generations – however particularly Boomers – once they dispense viewpoints perceived as presumptive, condescending or politically incorrect.
The meme arose in a wider context of “Boomer blaming”. On this view, the older era has bequeathed Gen Z a bunch of societal points, from Brexit and Trump to intergenerational financial inequality and local weather change.
From ‘large P’ politics to ‘on a regular basis politics’ and ‘intergenerational politics’
In our latest examine on types of on-line activism and advocacy on TikTok, we checked out 1,755 “OK Boomer” posts from 2019 and 2020 and located younger folks used the meme to have interaction in “on a regular basis politics”.
In contrast to “large P” politics – the work of governments, parliaments and politicians – “on a regular basis politics” are political pursuits, pursuits and discussions framed by way of private experiences.
On TikTok, younger folks assemble and talk their “on a regular basis politics” by displaying their private identities in extremely personable methods, to exhibit solidarity with or problem beliefs and rules in society.
Child boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z labels: Crucial or nonsense?
The “OK Boomer” meme and others prefer it permit younger folks to partake in a type of “intergenerational politics”. That is the tendency for folks from a specific age cohort to kind a shared political consciousness and behaviours, often in opposition to the political attitudes of different teams. That is additionally harking back to when Boomers themselves encountered their very own intergenerational politics within the countercultures of the Sixties and Seventies.
Doing ‘politics’ on TikTok
On TikTok, political expression can take the type of viral dances and audio memes. Younger folks use youthful parlance and lingo, pop cultural references and emojis to form their collective political tradition. In our examine, we discovered three meme kinds had been particularly standard:
“Lip-sync activism” concerned utilizing lip-syncing to overlay one’s facial expressions and gestures over a soundtrack, both in settlement with or to problem the lyrics and ethical tone of a music.
“Reacts through duets” made use of TikTok’s “duet” perform for customers to document their very own authentic video clip alongside an authentic. This a compare-and-contrast type permits for juxtaposition (to oppose the unique assertion) or collaboration (so as to add to the unique assertion).
“Craft activism” featured customers displaying the inventive processes and manufacturing of “OK Boomer”-themed objects and artwork, equivalent to drawings, embroidery, and 3D printing.
Conveying hardship and tensions by way of TikTok memes
Memes have been used as collective symbols for neighborhood identification round particular political causes equivalent to human rights advocacy, the #MeToo motion, and anti-racism campaigns throughout the pandemic.
Equally, the “OK Boomer” meme has been deployed to debate numerous controversial and contentious points. That is typically finished in a reflexive means, utilizing self-deprecating memes and ironic self-criticism to parody the excessively judgemental behaviour of others.
Round 40% of the posts we examined targeted on younger folks’s life and well-being. These posts detailed how Gen Z are sometimes criticised by Boomers for his or her life-style and look selections, equivalent to unconventional profession pathways and sporting ripped denims.
Gen Z TikTokers additionally expressed frustration in direction of the dismissive angle that Boomers adopted in direction of their psychological well being. These posts counsel Boomers blame despair or nervousness on stereotypical causes equivalent to “spending an excessive amount of time on the cellphone” or “not consuming sufficient water”.
About 10% of our pattern demonstrated points round gender and sexuality norms. In these instances, Gen Z felt their id explorations and expressions had been criticised by Boomers. Non-binary younger folks and people who didn’t comply with gender norms for costume describe being “dress-coded” by Boomers, and queer and transgender younger folks report receiving rebukes for being open about their sexuality.
Why do ‘OK Boomer’ memes matter?
Some students and commentators have criticised the “OK Boomer” meme as divisive and discriminatory in opposition to older folks. Nevertheless, as students of younger folks’s digital cultures we have now discovered it extra productive to know the development from the standpoint of Gen Z.
From this viewpoint, “OK Boomer” is a consequence of current intergenerational discord, not its trigger. Gen Z face rising threats equivalent to local weather change, political unrest, and generational financial hardship. Memes like “OK Boomer” are methods to precise intergenerational on a regular basis politics to consolidate a shared consciousness of the perceived failure of the Boomers.
Generational struggle: a monster of our personal making
Additional, a lot of the private tales informed by way of “OK Boomer” TikToks had been deployed by Gen Z once they felt below assault for his or her life-style selections, costume code, expressions of sexuality, or psychological well being struggles. Like many Boomers did in their very own youths, members of Gen Z worth freedom of expression and id exploration.
The retort of “OK Boomer” affords a counter-reaction and expresses indignation. However on the similar time it carries a way of desperation for company and private house, in addition to some consideration and care.