‘OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations

Now it’s war: Gen Z has finally snapped over climate change and financial inequality.

In a viral audio clip on TikTok, a white-haired man in a baseball cap and polo shirt declares, “The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up.”

Thousands of teens have responded through remixed reaction videos and art projects with a simple phrase: “ok boomer.”

“Ok boomer” has become Generation Z’s endlessly repeated retort to the problem of older people who just don’t get it, a rallying cry for millions of fed up kids. Teenagers use it to reply to cringey YouTube videos, Donald Trump tweets, and basically any person over 30 who says something condescending about young people — and the issues that matter to them.

Teenagers have scrawled the message in their notebooks and carved it into at least one pumpkin. For senior picture day at one Virginia high school, a group of nine students used duct tape to plaster “ok boomer” across their chests.

The meme-to-merch cycle is nothing new, but unlike most novelty products, “ok boomer” merch is selling. Shannon O’Connor, 19, designed a T-shirt and hoodie with the phrase “ok boomer” written in the “thank you” style of a plastic shopping bag. She uploaded it to Bonfire, a site for selling custom apparel, with the tagline “Ok boomer have a terrible day.” After promoting the shirt on TikTok, she received more than $10,000 in orders.

The older generations grew up with a certain mind-set, and we have a different perspective,” Ms. O’Connor said. “A lot of them don’t believe in climate change or don’t believe people can get jobs with dyed hair, and a lot of them are stubborn in that view. Teenagers just respond, ‘Ok, boomer.’ It’s like, we’ll prove you wrong, we’re still going to be successful because the world is changing.”

Ms. O’Connor is far from the only one cashing in. Hundreds of “ok boomer” products are for sale through on-demand shopping sites like Redbubble and Spreadshirt, where many young people are selling “ok boomer” phone cases, bedsheets, stickers, pins and more.

Nina Kasman, an 18-year-old college student selling “ok boomer” stickers, socks, shirts, leggings, posters, water bottles, notebooks and greeting cards, said that while older generations have always looked down on younger kids or talked about things “back in their day,” she and other teens believe older people are actively hurting young people. “Everybody in Gen Z is affected by the choices of the boomers, that they made and are still making,” she said. “Those choices are hurting us and our future. Everyone in my generation can relate to that experience and we’re all really frustrated by it.”

Gen Z is going to be the first generation to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them,” said Joshua Citarella, 32, a researcher who studies online communities. Teenagers today find themselves, he said, with “three major crises all coming to a head at the Gen Z moment.”

Essentials are more expensive than ever before, we pay 50 percent of our income to rent, no one has health insurance,” said Mr. Citarella. “Previous generations have left Generation Z with the short end of the stick. You see this on both the left, right, up down and sideways.” Mr. Citarella added: “The merch is proof of how much the sentiment resonates with people.”

Rising inequality, unaffordable college tuition, political polarization exacerbated by the internet, and the climate crisis all fuel anti-boomer sentiment.

And so Ms. Kasman and other teenagers selling merch say that monetizing the boomer backlash is their own little form of protest against a system they feel is rigged. “The reason we make the ‘ok boomer’ merch is because there’s not a lot that I can personally do to reduce the price of college, for example, which was much cheaper for older generations who then made it more expensive,” Ms. Kasman said. “There’s not much I can personally do to restore the environment, which was harmed due to corporate greed of older generations. There’s not much I can personally do to undo political corruption, or fix Congress so it’s not mostly old white men boomers who don’t represent the majority of generations.”

Ms. Kasman said she plans to use proceeds to pay for college. So do others.

“I’ll definitely use the money for my student loans, paying my rent. Stuff that will help me survive,” said Everett Solares, 19, who is selling a slew of rainbow “ok boomer” products. “I hadn’t seen any gay stuff for ‘ok boomer,’ so I just chose every product that I could find in case anyone wanted it,” she said.

Gavin Deschutter, 17, reimagines famous logos for companies like FedEx, Budweiser, Google, and KFC with the catch phrase, and has been selling t shirts and phone cases emblazoned with the message. He hasn’t made very much — “I sold a hoodie yesterday for $36,” he said — but his designs have been shared across meme pages on Instagram.

Every movement needs an anthem, and the undisputed boomer backlash hymn is a song written and produced by Jonathan Williams, a 20-year-old college student. Titled, inevitably, “ok boomer,” the song opens with: “It’s funny you think I respect your opinion, when your hairline looks that disrespectful.”

The chorus consists of Mr. Williams screaming “ok boomer” repeatedly into the mic. Peter Kuli, a 19-year-old college student, created a remix of the song, which has seen 4,000 TikToks made from the track. The two planned to split the revenue earned through streams of the song on Spotify.

“The song is aggressive and ridiculous, but I think it says a lot about Gen Z culture,” said Mr. Kuli. “I think because of the internet, people are finally feeling like they have a voice and an outlet to critique the generations who got us into this position.”

“Millennials and Gen Xers are on our side, but I think Gen Z is finally putting their feet in the ground and saying enough is enough,” he said.

Teens say “ok boomer” is the perfect response because it’s blasé but cutting. It’s the digital equivalent of an eye roll. And because boomers so frequently refer to younger generations as “snowflakes,” a few teenagers said, it’s particularly hilarious to watch them freak out about the phrase.

“If they do take it personally, it just further proves that they take everything we do as offensive. It’s just funnier,” said Saptarshi Biswas, 17.

“Instead of taking offense to them, you’re just like, ha-ha,” said Julitza Mitchell, 18.

In the end, boomer is just a state of mind. Mr. Williams said anyone can be a boomer — with the right attitude. “You

  • don’t like change, you
  • don’t understand new things especially related to technology, you
  • don’t understand equality,” he said.

“Being a boomer is just having that attitude, it can apply to whoever is bitter toward change.”

“We’re not taking a jab at boomers as a whole — we’re not going for their lives,” said Christopher Mezher, 18. “If it’s a jab at anyone it’s outdated political figures who try to run our lives.”

“You can keep talking,” Ms. Kasman said, as if to a boomer, “but we’re going to change the future.”

Will Gen-Z Save the World?

The revolt against Boomer morality.

There is some sort of hard-to-define spiritual crisis across the land, which shows up in rising depression rates, rising mental health problems. A survey that the Pew Research Center released late last year captures the mood. Pew asked people to describe the things that bring meaning to their lives. A shocking number of respondents described lives of quiet despair:

“I no longer find much of anything meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying. Whatever used to keep me going has gone. I am currently struggling to find any motivation to keep going.”

“It would be nice to live according to my being rather than my blackness. I will never know how a totally worthwhile life will feel because of this.”

“Drugs and alcohol are the shining rays of light in my otherwise unbearable existence.”

“I don’t feel very satisfied with my life. I’m a stay-at-home mom and my life is endless monotony and chaos.”

When people overall described the sources of meaning in their lives, they stuck close to home. Nearly 70 percent identified family as a source of meaning, followed by career, making money, and practicing a spirituality or faith. Only 11 percent said learning added meaning to their lives. Only seven percent said that helping others was a meaningful part of their life.

If you ask philosophers how people fill their lives with meaning, they usually point to some version of serving a cause larger than self. William James said that meaning was found in tireless struggle on behalf of some sacred ideal. Susan Wolf says that meaning is found in active engagement in important projects.

But the meaning of meaning seems to have changed. When people in this survey describe meaning, they didn’t describe moral causes or serving their community, country or God. They described moments when they felt loved, satisfied or good about themselves. They described positive personal emotions. As one respondent put it, “It’s easy to forget what’s wrong in the world when you are pretending to be a puppy with your daughter.”

It’s as if people no longer see life as something that should be organized around a specific vocation, a calling that is their own way of doing good in the world.

Everything feels personalized and miniaturized. The upper registers of moral life — fighting for freedom, struggling to end poverty — have been amputated for many. The awfulness of the larger society is a given. The best you can do is find a small haven in a heartless world. One respondent said he found meaning in the tiniest things: “Small-scale nature — individual bugs and plants — are quite pleasing. I like to be able to focus on things that don’t care about me or the larger world.”

They can be totally insufferable about it. In the upscale colleges on the coasts, Wokeness is a religious revival with its own conception of sin (privilege) and its own version of the Salem Witch Trials (online shaming). But the people in this movement have a sense of vocation, moral call, and a rage at injustice that is legitimate rejection of what came before.

I recently met a group of high school kids from around the United States and Africa involved in the Bezos Scholars program. In our conversations they didn’t define their identity by where they were from, or even by their ethnicity and race. They defined themselves by what project they work on — serving Native Americans, working for clean water. Similarly, high school students generally are more likely to define themselves by their political stances and their vocations, rather than whether they are jocks or drama kids.

I’ve also found that college students are eager to talk about a moral project entirely absent from the Pew survey: Doing inner work, growing in holiness. Many seem to have rediscovered the sense, buried for a few decades, that one calling in life is to become a better person. Your current self is not good enough. You have to be transformed through right action.

It’s often uncomfortable and over the top, but we’re lucky to have a rebellion against boomer quietism and moral miniaturization. The young zealots may burn us all in the flames of their auto-da-fe, but it’s better than living in a society marked by loneliness and quiet despair.

The Pew survey reveals a large group of Americans down the income and economic ladders, who are suffering from economic scarcity, social scarcity and spiritual scarcity all at once. Less educated people were less likely to say that friendship was a source of meaning in their lives. They were less likely to say hobbies were a source of meaning, nor was learning, nor good health nor stability.

When people overall described the sources of meaning in their lives, they stuck close to home. Nearly 70 percent identified family as a source of meaning, followed by career, making money, and practicing a spirituality or faith. Only 11 percent said learning added meaning to their lives. Only seven percent said that helping others was a meaningful part of their life.

If you ask philosophers how people fill theirs lives with meaning, they usually point to some version of serving a cause larger than self. William James said that meaning was found in tireless struggle on behalf of some sacred ideal. Susan Wolf says that meaning is found in active engagement in important projects.

But the meaning of meaning seems to have changed. When people in this survey describe meaning, they didn’t describe moral causes or serving their community, country or God. They described moments when they felt loved, satisfied or good about themselves. They described positive personal emotions. As one respondent put it, “It’s easy to forget what’s wrong in the world when you are pretending to be a puppy with your daughter.”

It’s as if people no longer see life as something that should be organized around a specific vocation, a calling that is their own way of doing good in the world.

Everything feels personalized and miniaturized. The upper registers of moral life — fighting for freedom, struggling to end poverty — have been amputated for many. The awfulness of the larger society is a given. The best you can do is find a small haven in a heartless world. One respondent said he found meaning in the tiniest things: “Small-scale nature — individual bugs and plants — are quite pleasing. I like to be able to focus on things that don’t care about me or the larger world.”

The Job Advice You Wish You Knew How to Give

Times have changed so much that parents puzzle over how to guide their sons and daughters toward a career

Nearly 2 million students will emerge from U.S. colleges with bachelor’s degrees this year.

Many will enter a job market their parents barely recognize.

Competition for entry-level jobs is fierce, despite the tight labor market. Many applicants run a gantlet of internships and tryouts before getting a toehold on a permanent job. Career ladders of old have been replaced by zigzag job-to-job paths. Entry-level pay gainshave fallen short of housing-cost increases in many regions, and grads’ average debt has tripled since the early 1990s.

All this can leave parents off-balance and hard-pressed to offer advice.

Chloe Roach worked two part-time jobs during college, and three unpaid internships, before graduating from the State University of New York at Geneseo last summer with a degree in communications. She took another unpaid internship after graduation to get the ad-agency experience employers wanted, before finally landing a six-month hourly position.

“I’m exhausted just watching her,” says her mother, Monique Patenaude, a university media-relations director at her daughter’s alma mater. “She just turned 21 and she’s had more phone interviews, Skype interviews, in-person interviews, first, second and third interviews, than I’ve ever had.”

.. When Thomas Plante, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University, told friends he was going to grad school after getting his bachelor’s degree years ago, they assumed he was becoming a doctor or lawyer. Today, students seeking advanced degrees have far more career options to choose from. When his son, Zach, laid plans to go straight to grad school after graduating from Dartmouth in earth science and physics, his professors told him instead to work in research for a while so he could make a more thoughtful choice about next steps.

While Zach is working as a research assistant in labs at Stanford University and the U.S. Geological Survey, his hourly pay isn’t high enough to afford housing, so he’s living with his parents in Menlo Park, Calif. Dr. Plante and his wife, Lori, were able to buy their house years ago with their entry-level salaries and some savings. Today, his daily runs take him past a two-bedroom cottage listed for sale at $3 million.

He finds it ironic when parents complain that their sons and daughters didn’t work their way through college or land a high-paid job before graduation. His advice: “Your reality back in the 1970s or 1980s is just not the world of 2019. You’ve got to get over it.”

The New Rules of the Post-College Job Search

Encourage your child to:

Get workplace experience before graduating.

Start building a network early.

Acquire technical, analytical and interpersonal skills not taught in college classes.

Avoid relying heavily on online job boards.

Build a robust LinkedIn profile.

Seek out other experienced adult mentors for advice.

Skye Jethani: The Church is Not a Corporation with Dave Gibbons


Do your church leaders want to use you or equip you? Pastor and cultural architect, Dave Gibbons, joins Skye for a conversation about the future of the church. Having experienced everything from fundamentalism, to the seeker megachurch, and urban multiethnic ministry, Gibbons has an interesting take on where things are heading. Hint—its about launching people not institutions. Phil and Skye also discuss Andrew Sullivan’s new article in which he argues that America’s new religion of “progress” is an empty shell that has made our politics worse. Plus, scientists are implanting mice with human mini-brains. What could possibly go wrong? And Phil tries to convince Skye not to learn golf.

 

How do you shape a community.  Its clearly not just the didactic teaching.

Generation Z is looking for something authentic that engages with them.  They can get good shows other places.

Is there a fallout from this model?  How am I going to get people in the nursery?

There is going to be suspicion of white, non-diverse churches.

There needs to be people who don’t have charisma.

Younger people are looking for individualized, authentic, customized communities.  They are suspicious of am industrialized model.

They need to be a hub, resource center.  Discipleship.

Your motivation is to love them.  You don’t have to worry about saving them.

People sense that their pastor is more interested in using them than in loving them.

Church planting -> People planting

Just have meaningful conversations, love them, trust the spirit