Baby Boomers vs. Gen Z

Can any good come out of this splintered relationship?

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A group of Gen Z students lie down to de-stress on the grass after a long day at school.

Laranya P., Reporter

Indeed, all generations have strife with one another, but there has never been anything quite like the heated clashing of the Baby Boomers and Gen Zs. Existential problems Gen Zs suffer these days include: Will humankind’s very own creation of artificial intelligence be our downfall? Or will we fade into our VR headsets? Will privacy still be around, or will our identities be monitored and stored, and maybe even stolen? Will the impending doom of climate change render Earth uninhabitable? Say all this doesn’t happen with all these jobs disappearing, what steady job can I have when I’m older?

But first, some background. Baby boomers were born between 1945 and 1969, their name originating from the baby boom caused by Americans’ affluence after the horrific World War II. The following generation, 1970-1980, didn’t have any defining characteristics or identifiers, receiving the vague label of “Gen X.” This triggered alphabetical names, with Gen Y coming next, or Millenials, when the end of the millennium sank into the cultural consciousness, born between 1981 and 1999. And last, but by no means least, are the Gen Zs, born after the 2000s, wreaking havoc with technology’s advent.

From a Gen Zs point of view, with all these terrifying questions floating around the uncertain future, the advice and claims Boomers are giving aren’t exactly helping their case. We’re looking at you ‘Climate Change Isn’t Real.’ Gen Zs are just sick and tired of Boomers refusing progressive policies, financial inequality, lack of action against climate change, Donald Trump,  unaffordable university tuition, shrinking jobs, and constant condescending comments of disapproval from out-of-touch elders. 

However, Gen Zs aren’t all that perfect either. As the first true digital natives, the overabundance of social media and fake news have changed the way Gen Zs view the transmission of information. Although age used to signify skill and capability, the sheer amount of knowledge at our fingertips, available through technology, means Gen Zs are just as competent as Boomers, dismissing the entire concept of experience they grew up valuing. This shift has led to further disputes and triggered Boomers to create the nickname “Snowflake” for the Gen Zs, signifying that they are sheltered and fragile which, in turn, sparked numerous intense debates over the notion of experience. 

By being connected to technology from birth, many studies have supported the contention that Gen Zs have extremely short attention spans, which can lead to concentration issues. Still, there is some silver lining to this storm cloud. Seeing as they are the most marketed-to children, this short attention span helps them sort more content more efficiently than ever before. Moreover, this access and ability to filter and find accurate information has made Gen Zs exceptionally socially aware and led them to value equality and diversity. 

Living through protests, wars, financial crises, devastating natural disasters, war, school shootings, terrorist attacks, and being scrutinized continuously for their ‘dependence’ on technology, Gen Z has become a generation weary of all the economic and social conflict, not ready to listen to the Baby Boomers. On the other hand, there are the Baby Boomers, unaccustomed to this new generation discrediting their culture and beliefs with the unprecedented advancement of technology, dismissing any ideas generated by Gen Zs.

However, imagine if — out of these differences — through combining knowledge, new ties were made. Adopting a mindset that allows everyone to share goals and resources, physical or not, will enable both generations to create something mutually beneficial. An approach like this requires both sides to pull their weight, show empathy, cooperate, and above all, trust. 

In the hallways of ASD, you can occasionally hear an “OK, Boomer” followed by a chorus of laughter. This widespread phrase is used by Gen Zs to shrug off the Boomers undermining the credibility of their viewpoint due to lack of experience, retaliating by sarcastically accepting it. T. Jabbour (’23), one of the youngest freshmen, mentioned that “‘OK, Boomer’ is a phrase that empowers us Gen Zs by being able to shut down Baby Boomers trying to force their opinions on us, kind of like an eye-roll or facepalm.” Laughing she added, “but now it’s a joke that we Gen Zs all share.”

If everyone can leave behind their protective mindset towards one another, an incredible opportunity can materialize from people’s diverse skills. As Megan Gerhardt, a professor at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University, puts it, “Let’s stop the generation shaming, the name-calling, the scapegoating. Let’s instead think about what different generations can both teach and learn from each other, and how those conversations can result in entirely new ways of solving problems.”

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