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"Ok Boomer," its origins, and how it became an invitation to digital discourse

Updated: Dec 24, 2019

Earlier this week, 25 year old Swedish lawmaker, Chlöe Swarbrick, shut down a heckler with “Ok Boomer,” while delivering a speech on climate change. Who could have predicted the massive response to her words? Those two words sparked digital discourse around the world. Some people were outraged. Others were offended: A New York Times piece even claimed it “marked the end of friendly generational relations.” But did it actually? 

“Ok Boomer” is not necessarily a personal attack but rather an invitation to digital discourse by younger generations. It is as an opportunity to communicate with the younger generations as they communicate with each other: in viral making moments. Don’t take it personally. 

Long before Chlöe Swarbrick’s viral moment, Gen Z teens have been using the catchphrase “OK Boomers” for months. In fact, it originated on social media platforms as a humorous rebuttal to the older generation’s criticism. Teens would create humorous videos and tweets using the catchphrase with the intention of going viral. To go viral, you have to play by the digital rules. 

The digital landscape is different than the real world. Politeness isn't necessarily rewarded. And age means nothing.  Entertaining ‘clapbacks’ and ‘drags” is what allows one to claim space and thereby to have one’s perspective heard. The biggest influencers, who go viral the most, are usually the most outspoken and controversial. 

With that being said, in this digital climate, where sassy rebuttals and viral moments, are rewarded, “Ok Boomers” is an invitation to participate in this new digital language. The younger generations have created an opportunity for Baby Boomers to get in on the action: have their own viral moment, their own iconic rebuttal to “OK Boomers.”

Now that Baby Boomers have experience with this new digital landscape, they can effectively teleport the conversations that they are already having with other Baby Boomers to the social media world and reach more people than ever.

The debate around this catchphrase only reinforces how impactful Baby Boomers are in real life and can be in the digital and social media discourse. So congratulations, Boomers, you’ve now entered the chat.

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