The American Dialect Society announced Jan. 2 that the phrase “Ok Boomer” was a category winner for 2019 Word of the Year. Haven’t heard it? It’s defined on their website as a “retort to someone older expressing out-of-touch or condescending views.”
I’ve never used it myself, but I get the sentiment. I’m 36, an older millennial, and I’ve done my share of head-shaking when I feel people older than me don’t understand me or what I’m trying to do.
You’ve experienced this age-related tension, too, I’m sure. If you’re young, I’m sure you’ve been frustrated with the actions of someone of an older generation and commiserated with a peer about it. If you’re older, I can’t imagine it’d be hard to think of a moment (or 10) when the behavior of a younger person has bewildered you.
Generational conflict isn’t anything new. Older generations complaining of the ideas and ways of younger ones has happened throughout all of history. And it’s always gone the other way as well: C.S. Lewis coined the term “chronological snobbery” back in 1966, naming our tendency to assume that the ways of the present day are inherently better and smarter than the ways of the past.
It’s always been around, but somehow it feels like this generational angst is more palpable these days. Maybe because of social media. Maybe because the world has been changing so fast.
Either way, it’s here. “Ok, Boomer” has spread around the Internet like wildfire, a young generation’s response to feeling judged and misunderstood by an older one (they’re even making shirts). Millennials have long felt judgement, too—so much so that when I read the word millennial I hear it in my head in a certain way: muh-LEN-ial. You don’t have to search very hard to find criticism of the millennial generation, that’s for sure.
But let’s be honest: older people feel misunderstood as well. Like they don’t know anything because the younger generations know it all. Like their values and their way of doing life has been thrown out the window, discarded for newer things and “smarter” ideas.
You know what I’m hoping for in 2020? More conversation and less judgment, in general, but especially among people of different ages. I’m hoping this year that all of us — whether you’re 17 or 36 or 62 — can start talking with each other instead of about each other.
We’re all in this together, and we’re all doing the best we can. Generations are the way they are because of the world they’ve grown up in, and I think it’s best that we all work to understand each other a little bit more. I bet we could even learn from each other.
In this column, I’ll share my own experiences and reflections as a person in the middle: someone who remembers a world without Internet and smartphones but also someone who likes getting coffee and prefers texting to talking on the phone (like any other good millennial). I’ll bring in conversations I’ve had and continue to have with friends and family of all ages.
You’re welcome to contact me with questions or topic ideas. Want to know why younger people do this or do that, or share some wisdom you think young people could benefit from? Want me to discuss a topic or perspective from the millennial or younger point of view? Drop me a note.
Let’s stop judging and start talking. We’ll get to know each other, and maybe even laugh a little. I think it’ll be fun.
— Amber Joy Adrian is a Mitchell resident and Ethan native. Send her a question, note, or observation by emailing her at email@example.com. Her column will appear every other week in The Daily Republic.