In an audio clip that went viral on the video sharing app TikTok, a white haired man in a baseball cap and polo shirt who met the age of fitting into the ‘Baby Boomer’ category (roughly between 1946 and 1965) declared that “The millennials and generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up.” Without knowing it, the quick-to-lay-a-label-man was about to really ‘meet’ his younger generations. What happened exactly, and why is half of the world’s population so damn offended?
Arguably this happens within every generation, but for a long time now this cross generational dialogue between Baby Boomers, millennials (1980-1996), and now gen Zers (1996-2015), has had its fair share of heated moments. Things feel a little different now though, somehow. To start, generations are taking other generations to court for defensive communication, and fundamentally, a lack of willingness to understand each other’s viewpoint. Woke culture is pretty downright aggressive, which is contradictory in itself when it comes to what the term means. That being said, the opposing party, the people too bred into narrow-minded thoughts, are being just as aggressive. Listening and learning from our elders seems to be turning a leaf in 2020, particularly within a 30 to 40 year age gap between people.
Millennials say Boomers are ‘out of touch’. On the other hand, Boomers claim that millennials are ‘killing’ once stable industries, like breakfast cereal and luxury goods, by saving money and spending less. Whereas Boomers have, according to Bruce Cannon Gibney’s A Generation of Sociopaths, essentially “mortgaged the future for their own short-term gain” and therefore led climate change to a, excuse the pun, climactic state.
Gen Zers are portrayed as being addicted to their phones and ‘intolerant’ of their elders. According to an international study commissioned by WP Engine in partnership with The Center for Generational Kinetics, our generation is fueled by technology in all facets of their life. Chief Marketing Officer at WP Engine, Mary Ellen Dugan, stated in response to the study that “Gen Z is well on its way to becoming the largest generation of consumers by the year 2020.” Around 55 per cent of gen Zers can’t comfortably go more than a few hours without an internet connection, and they have grown up in the hyper personalised world of targeted advertisements and social platforms. As a result, they are willing to trade privacy for personalised experiences.
On a polar opposite side of the spectrum, Boomers see physical shop fronts as their go-to when it comes to consuming goods. In all honesty, the differences are understandable—but will we, and shouldn’t we all instead strive to find a common ground on societal matters such as environmental health and global politics among other things that the younger generations are protesting for?
Unfortunately as the years pass, reaching a middle ground is looking near impossible. There is a repetitive back and forth of arguments and blame, which has led to defensive rejection all round. This is where the meme phrase “OK Boomer” came in, a phrase that is meant to be cutting and dismissive, suggesting that the conversations between these generations have become so unproductive that the younger generations are ‘over it’. OK Boomer is, effectively, a door in the face with a side of an eye roll.
According to Vox, “OK Boomer implies that the older generation misunderstands millennial and Gen Z culture and politics so fundamentally that years of condescension and misrepresentation have led to this pointedly terse rebuttal and rejection.” OK Boomer has, unsurprisingly, provoked backlash from Baby Boomers, many of which have misread the meme. However, that misreading also feeds the meme, because Baby Boomers that fail to understand the point of what OK Boomer stands for, is essentially the point of OK Boomer itself.
Vox continues by explaining that “It’s important to understand that what really lies behind the meme is increasing economic, environmental, and social anxiety, and the feeling that baby boomers are leaving younger generations to clean up their mess.”
The OK Boomer song used as the backdrop to all those TikTok videos define Boomers as racist, fascist Trump supporters with bad hair. While this might be true for a specific part of the generation, we all know that it’s not always the case, and that a mass labelling system has not and will not ever work when it comes to societal differences.
Most meme videos in this context reference generalised conflicts such as elder generational judgement when it comes to things like gender expression, financial choices or leisure activities. However, the broader background to these videos is the perceived irony of Boomers ‘nitpicking’ younger generations, when it was actually the Boomers’ own choices that created the socioeconomic landscape that millennials and gen Zers face today.
In a New York Times article, Joshua Citarella, a researcher who studies online communities, is quoted in saying that “Gen Z is going to be the first generation to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them.” Teenagers today find themselves, he added, with “three major crises all coming to a head at the Gen Z moment.” For example, essentials are more expensive than ever before, 50 per cent of our income goes towards rent, and hardly anyone has health insurance.
Jonathan Williams, a 20 year old college student who produced the song ‘OK Boomer’ told the New York Times that “anyone can be a Boomer with the right attitude,” adding the description: “You don’t like change, you don’t understand new things especially related to technology, you don’t understand equality. Being a Boomer is just having that attitude, it can apply to whoever is bitter toward change.”
There are some harsh realities within society today, and this argument is not going to simply go away. Thankfully, gen Z isn’t about to step down when it comes to fighting for a change in attitudes, one that the world so desperately needs. The future is looking up, are you ready for it Boomers? You don’t have to be.
For a few years now, many have described the generation Z as sensitive, lazy and addicted to social media. While some of it is most definitely true, we’ve recently started seeing gen Z as the one that will change things. Now, as the Black Lives Matter movement carries on protesting in the US as well as in the rest of the world, we wonder if gen Z could actually be the generation that tackles systemic racism.
To answer this, we asked the gen Z live platform Yubo to share a few of our questions with its users. The poll was conducted between 9 June and 15 June and had Yubo survey over 13,000 people aged 13 to 25 years old in the UK. This allowed Screen Shot to get gen Zers’ opinion on the movement of protest that followed George Floyd’s murder in the US.
From the poll’s results, 7 statistics stood out as clear signs that gen Z could well be the generation of change.
In order to achieve any kind of change, we need to accept that there is something wrong in the first place. That’s why we asked Yubo’s gen Zers residing in the UK whether they felt like black people were treated differently than white people. In other words, we wanted to see if they could admit the existence of white privilege.
In response, 4 out of 5 gen Zers said they believe that black people are treated differently, compared to only 2 out of 3 of their parents sharing the same belief. For many, denying white privilege comes from misunderstanding the concept.
Not fully grasping how society privileges white individuals has led many to believe that black people who have suffered from police brutality somehow deserved the blame. In comparison, the new generation has been helped by social media and the internet in understanding where white privilege comes from and how exactly it benefits certain people.
While certain news outlets have made it their mission to depict the many protests that followed George Floyd’s murder as violent, many protesters have testified against these statements. We’ve discovered that, in the UK, 4 out of 5 gen Zers believe that peaceful protests are necessary to facilitate change, confirming that most new gens intend to protest peacefully and not violently. Half of their parents hold the same belief.
With the current movement still going strong, we’ve seen the protesters’ resilience and willingness to sacrifice their time and energy in a cause that is more than worth it. Despite the risk of getting arrested by the police, new gens have admitted they would be prepared to take that risk in order to make their voice heard.
While previous generations have been quick to point the finger at the US, as we’ve seen Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis do last week in an interview with George the Poet, gen Z is also calling out the UK and other countries as being responsible for systemic racism, too. Ignoring the UK’s denial of its own racism is as disingenuous as ignoring the US’ police brutality and racism, and doing so only further perpetuates white privilege in the UK.
These statistics portray gen Zers as strong protesters who are aware of systemic issues as well as willing to take action. But admitting and fighting these don’t come without its toll on new gen’s mental and physical wellbeing.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against racism and injustice couldn’t wait. While staying home as much as possible is still strongly recommended by governments, protesters have had to make do with their best tool in order to make their voices heard: protesting.
Just yesterday, police officers in London urged Priti Patel to impose an emergency ban on all protests during the coronavirus pandemic, warning officers were being put at risk by a wave of mass demonstrations. Although wearing masks, gloves, and keeping a two meters distance from other protesters are the best ways to avoid risk of getting COVID-19, many protesters are still concerned about their health. The situation, however, has not discouraged the Black Lives Matter movement from fighting back.
Protesting has never been easy. But now, more than ever, with the constant flow of graphic and harmful content our brains receive through social media platforms, we find ourselves on edge frequently. This has had an impact on gen Z’s mental health. As an activist, looking after your mental health is a necessary step in the fight against systemic racism.
This statistic highlights how much more effort we need to make as a generation. Protests must carry on, yes, but we also need to provide more information to anyone that might feel the need to research how to take action. Only by doing so will we start tackling systemic racism.
These protests are made of passionate, non-violent young leaders fighting for a brighter future. Those who previously criticised the new generation for being too connected, too woke or even too sensitive will be compelled to reconsider their stance soon enough.