“OK Boomer” is the Meme We Need Right Now. Here’s Why.
The “OK Boomer” meme couldn’t have arrived at a better time. If you haven’t yet seen it, simply do an online search of “OK Boomer” to get caught up. The meme isn’t about one generation picking on another. It’s about an ascendant generation intuitively asserting itself through the platform it grew up with as part of a generational baton hand-off.
From the early 2000s through the mid-2010s, you couldn’t attend a professional development session without seeing a workshop or “expert” discussing the “millennial problem.“ Usually, the topic was phrased something like this:
“What are we going to do about these Millennials? They’re not like us and have different priorities and expectations about work.”
Typical responses to the question ranged from “we must engage with them” to “the sky is falling, and the world is ending.”
As a Gen Xer, I’ve had a ringside seat to over a decade of Boomer handwringing and not-so-subtle Millennial bashing.
It’s gotten old.
Yet gradually, as Boomers exited the workforce and the numbers of working Millennials grew, the balance of power subtly began to shift. And, while the hue and cry over Gen Y diminished, Millennials didn’t forget the less-than-warm embrace they’d received from their workforce elders. (Remember “Generation Snowflake” from just a few years ago?) Well, demographics have shifted and now the shoe is on the proverbial other foot. Enter the “OK, Boomer” meme.
Transfers of power tied to generational change are a sociologist’s delight, and I’ll leave the finer points of that discussion to them and the demographers. Instead, here are three reasons why “OK Boomer” is both important and timely.
The Struggle is Real
“OK Boomer” shines a light on a very real gulf between Millennials and Boomers. I believe it’s accurate to refer to that gulf as a “grievance.” And what better time to air grievances then during the season of Festivus (the holiday that made its rapid permeation through popular culture à la Seinfeld). There will likely be no feats of strength following the airing of grievances but make no mistake that the patriarchs have been pinned to the floor. The loss of their demographic advantage is new to Boomers and, as Millennials flex their newfound power, cultural clashes will continue.
Time Heals All
In response to “OK Boomer,” many people have called for greater kindness and engagement between the generations. This is a noble sentiment that conveniently ignores the past 15 years of Millennial bashing. It also casually disregards similar memes perpetrated by the Boomers like “Don’t trust anyone over 30” (a gem from the early 1960s).
Boomers, hear this: The “OK Boomer” meme will pass and gradually fade as most cultural memes and icons do. Yet it will forever linger at the corners of our collective social consciousness. It’s time to admit that turnabout is fair play and to begin exercising some patience.
Y: Be Better Than Your Elders
Generations Z and Alpha are coming in hot on the heels of Millennials, and I’ve got bad news for you Millennials out there…
There’s way more Zs and Alphas than there are of you.
So, Millennials, hear this: Don’t replicate the errors of the past by engaging in inter-generational sniping either up or down the ladder because eventually, it will be your turn.
The internet gives you an opportunity to learn from every intergenerational meme and brush fire that occurred during the last 80 years. Air your grievances, read up on the mistakes of the past, engage in self-reflection, and then decide to be the bigger generation so that we can all move forward.
Want to continue the discussion?
Let’s talk! I am an Executive Coach, Vistage Chair, and part-time inter-generational interpreter. When I’m not helping leaders move forward, I can often be found searching for the perfect cup of coffee while puzzling over the human condition to help build a better tomorrow.