The phrase “OK Boomer” has grow to be widespread over the previous two years as an all-purpose retort with which younger folks dismiss their elders for being “old school”.
“OK Boomer” started as a meme in TikTok movies, however our analysis reveals the catchphrase has grow to be rather more. The easy two-word phrase is used to precise private politics and on the identical time consolidate an consciousness of intergenerational politics, during which 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 could 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 in the course of the 1946–64 postwar child growth) 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 towards accusations of being a “fragile” technology unable to cope with hardship. However it has advanced into an all-purpose retort to older generations – however particularly Boomers – after 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 technology has bequeathed Gen Z a bunch of societal points, from Brexit and Trump to intergenerational financial inequality and local weather change.
From ‘huge P’ politics to ‘on a regular basis politics’ and ‘intergenerational politics’
In our latest research 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 interact in “on a regular basis politics”.
Not like “huge P” politics – the work of governments, parliaments and politicians – “on a regular basis politics” are political pursuits, pursuits and discussions framed via 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 display solidarity with or problem beliefs and rules in society.
Child boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z labels: Needed 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 type 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 research, we discovered three meme kinds have been particularly widespread:
“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” operate for customers to report their very own unique video clip alongside an unique. 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 artistic processes and manufacturing of “OK Boomer”-themed objects and artwork, resembling drawings, embroidery, and 3D printing.
Conveying hardship and tensions via TikTok memes
Memes have been used as collective symbols for neighborhood identification round particular political causes resembling human rights advocacy, the #MeToo motion, and anti-racism campaigns in the course of the pandemic.
Equally, the “OK Boomer” meme has been deployed to debate varied controversial and contentious points. That is usually accomplished in a reflexive approach, 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, resembling unconventional profession pathways and carrying 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 recommend Boomers blame despair or anxiousness on stereotypical causes resembling “spending an excessive amount of time on the cellphone” or “not ingesting sufficient water”.
About 10% of our pattern demonstrated points round gender and sexuality norms. In these instances, Gen Z felt their identification explorations and expressions have 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 towards older folks. Nevertheless, as students of younger folks’s digital cultures we now have discovered it extra productive to grasp the pattern from the standpoint of Gen Z.
From this viewpoint, “OK Boomer” is a consequence of present intergenerational discord, not its trigger. Gen Z face rising threats resembling 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 via “OK Boomer” TikToks have been deployed by Gen Z after they felt beneath 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 identification exploration.
The retort of “OK Boomer” provides a counter-reaction and expresses indignation. However on the identical time it carries a way of desperation for company and private house, in addition to some consideration and care.
Crystal Abidin receives funding from the Australian Analysis Council.
Meg Jing Zeng doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.