The phrase “OK Boomer” has turn out to be well-liked over the previous two years as an all-purpose retort with which younger individuals dismiss their elders for being “old style”.
“OK Boomer” started as a meme in TikTok movies, however our analysis reveals the catchphrase has turn out 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, by which Gen Z are coming to see themselves as a cohort with shared pursuits.
What does ‘OK Boomer’ imply?
The viral progress 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 through the 1946–64 postwar child increase) of being condescending, being racist and supporting Donald Trump, who was then US president.
In essence, the “OK Boomer” meme emerged as a shorthand for Gen Z to push again in opposition to accusations of being a “fragile” technology unable to cope with hardship. But it surely 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 number of societal points, from Brexit and Trump to intergenerational financial inequality and local weather change.
From ‘massive 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 individuals used the meme to have interaction in “on a regular basis politics”.
In contrast to “massive 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 individuals assemble and talk their “on a regular basis politics” by displaying their private identities in extremely personable methods, to show solidarity with or problem beliefs and rules in society.
The “OK Boomer” meme and others prefer it permit younger individuals to partake in a type of “intergenerational politics”. That is the tendency for individuals from a specific age cohort to kind a shared political consciousness and behaviors, normally in opposition to the political attitudes of different teams. That is additionally paying homage to when Boomers themselves encountered their very own intergenerational politics within the countercultures of the Nineteen Sixties and Nineteen Seventies.
Doing ‘politics’ on TikTok
On TikTok, political expression can take the type of viral dances and audio memes. Younger individuals use youthful parlance and lingo, pop cultural references and emojis to form their collective political tradition. In our research, we discovered three meme kinds had been particularly well-liked:
- “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 by way of duets” made use of TikTok’s “duet” operate for customers to document their very own unique video clip alongside an unique. This a compare-and-contrast fashion 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, reminiscent of 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 reminiscent of human rights advocacy, the #MeToo motion, and anti-racism campaigns through the pandemic.
Equally, the “OK Boomer” meme has been deployed to debate numerous controversial and contentious points. That is usually accomplished in a reflexive approach, utilizing self-deprecating memes and ironic self-criticism to parody the excessively judgmental habits of others.
Round 40% of the posts we examined centered on younger individuals’s existence and well-being. These posts detailed how Gen Z are sometimes criticized by Boomers for his or her life-style and look selections, reminiscent of unconventional profession pathways and carrying ripped denims.
Gen Z TikTokers additionally expressed frustration in direction of the dismissive perspective that Boomers adopted in direction of their psychological well being. These posts recommend Boomers blame melancholy or nervousness on stereotypical causes reminiscent of “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 criticized by Boomers. Non-binary younger individuals and people who didn’t comply with gender norms for gown describe being “dress-coded” by Boomers, and queer and transgender younger individuals report receiving rebukes for being open about their sexuality.
Why do ‘OK Boomer’ memes matter?
Some students and commentators have criticized the “OK Boomer” meme as divisive and discriminatory in opposition to older individuals. Nonetheless, as students of younger individuals’s digital cultures we’ve got discovered it extra productive to know 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 reminiscent of 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.
Additional, a lot of the private tales instructed via “OK Boomer” TikToks had been deployed by Gen Z after they felt beneath assault for his or her life-style selections, gown 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” provides a counter-reaction and expresses indignation. However on the identical time it carries a way of desperation for company and private area, in addition to some consideration and care.
This text by Crystal Abidin, Affiliate Professor & ARC DECRA Fellow, Web Research, Curtin College and Meg Jing Zeng, Senior analysis affiliate, College of Zurich, is republished from The Dialog beneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.