As the intergenerational culture war escalates, a simple two word retort has come to represent disaffected millenials’ disdain for the attitudes of the post-war boom generation: “OK boomer”
Use of the phrase has spiked in recent weeks, thanks largely to discussions of it in mainstream media articles, but it’s been in use for at least a year. The Know Your Meme website believes it was first used as a come-back in April 2018, and our social media analytics platform shows that there’s been a gradual increase in use of “OK boomer” since the start of the year, initially with a daily baseline of Twitter mentions in double digits, until late June when that increased to around 200-400 on most days. Since the beginning of August we’ve seen the phrase used 567k times on Twitter, most of that over the past week.
Ironically, the first time we tracked a significant spike in mentions of “OK boomer” was on September 1st 2019, when a tweet featuring the phrase in a list of overused online retorts went viral, reaching over 6k retweets. But it was about to become a lot more overused.
"YOU JUST POSTED CRINGE"
"UH OH GIBBY DIDN'T LIKE THAT"
"FBI OPEN UP"
"YOU SEE THIS SHIT APPLEJACK"
"YEP THIS IS GOING IN MY CRINGE COMPILATION"
"NOT FUNNY DIDN'T LAUGH" pic.twitter.com/zcmrkdQHyt
— YOU…HAVEN'T SEEN…ANYTHING YET… (B-day 11/13) (@mag1cian_type_0) August 30, 2019
The next noticeable spike in usage came in mid-October, when this tweet got shared 14k times:
saying “eat the rich”
-makes people think you’re a cannibal
saying “ok boomer”
-hurtful to a generation that ruined the planet and economy
— Skoog (@Skoog) October 17, 2019
But it wasn’t until October 29th that the phrase truly achieved critical mass, when the New York Times published an article on the subject. And while the paper’s own tweet got less than 1,000 retweets, the article itself was shared much more widely and the term was used almost 70k times on that day alone:
Fed up with older people who just don’t get it, Gen Z has a retort to push back against adults: “Ok boomer” https://t.co/TA0MPamzRw
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 29, 2019
On November 4th, the phrase boomed (lulz) to even greater usage, with a spike of 161k mentions. On this day the spike was driven by a wider range of heavily shared tweets on the topic, but the most popular received over 31K retweets:
My gf’s explanation of why “ok boomer” became a thing is spot on ✔️ pic.twitter.com/tRprQ4ImlU
— Ok Boober (@TheGallowBoob) November 3, 2019
Because it’s 2019, the discussion around use of the term “OK boomer” has become acrimonious, with some people arguing that the language is offensive, and others going so far to describe it as hate speech. As our emotional analysis shows, anger and sadness are the two strongest emotions attached to the discussion.
That’s reflected in the most commonly used emojis in “OK boomer” tweets, which shows a diverse mix of positive and downbeat feelings:
It’s difficult to say whether we’ve reached peak “OK boomer” or if the meme still has more to give, but for now we’ll let Twitter user, Matt Brady, have the final word:
can’t wait for the ok boomer meme to reach the natural end of its life cycle by having hillary clinton reply “ok boomer” to a trump tweet
— life is a highway (@mattvbrady) November 4, 2019