A generation is defined mainly as a group of people born around the same time and raised sharing similar characteristics, preferences, and values (Source: The Center for Generational Kinetics).
The idea of a generation gap was first raised by sociologists in the 1960s. At the time, younger people were labeled “Baby Boomers” because of a huge growth in population following World War II. Boomers’ music, values, cultural tastes and views about politics and government seemed to oppose everything their parents and grandparents – members of the previous Silent Generation – enjoyed or believed.
I am a baby boomer since I was born between 1945 and 1964. I remember being cautioned in my early 20s not to trust anyone over the age of 30. We boomers thought the Silent Generation was too traditional, “old fashioned” and out of touch. They criticized and judged us because guys wore their hair too long and were unshaven, while young women’s skirts were too short, or too long and flowery. Rock and roll music was the product of the devil played way too loud, sounding like a bunch of noise, with lyrics that made no sense.
Fast forward to 2020 where there are now three more named generations.
- Generation X includes the children of the baby boomers. They are now 38 to 53 years old. Their experiences have been highly colored by the computer revolution. Although some still remember rotary-dial phones and landlines, they are most skilled with cell phones and laptops.
- Generation Y are also known as Millennials. Their experiences included the beginning of the twenty-first century and the Y2K debate. Would computer data be lost in the 1990s or successfully transition into the 2000s? For Millennials, the Internet is a way of life. They have known about iPhones since they were ten years old.
- The current generation, now aged birth to 21 years old, were first called Generation Z (made sense, after X and Y). More recently they are being called Post-Millennials. Those in this Z gen-eration who are now in their late teens or early 20s have been molded by the experiences of 9/11 and its effects, a plethora of school shootings, and the recession of 2008.
This past year, according to the column “Word On the Street” by Ben Zimmer (December 21, 2019 issue of The Wall Street Journal), there has been a viral spread of the expression “Okay, Boomer” on the Internet. Used mainly by Post Millennials and some Millennials, it comes across as a dismissive retort or “put down” in response to anyone older (i.e., of the boomer generation) who acts in a condescending or judgmental way toward younger people and their worries and concerns. Some blame boomers for problems with Social Security, or climate change, or the general state of the world.
So, is this any different than boomers’ complaints about the Silent Generation: they were “old fashioned”, out of touch and not worth connecting with? Is “Okay, Boomer” similar to “Okay, Pops” used back in the day?