This post is in response to a Facebook meme posted by a fellow Boomer/progressive/white woman. And several other fellow Boomer comments in response.
Boomer Meme: “I don’t know how to use TikTok, but I can write in cursive, do long division, and tell time on clocks with hands … so there’s that.”
Comments were listing stuff like … And drive a stick shift, navigate by the stars, make a fire … Change a flat tire, make change, use the Dewey decimal card file (if there are any left) …
Nothing wrong with listing old skills and feeling a bit of nostalgia; it was the smug condescending tone of the meme and comments that I took issue with.
This kind of attitude I wish we would just stop ourselves from voicing (this is a composite of things I commonly hear fellow Boomers say): “I took xyz in middle school. And learned xyz in elementary. What happened? Students too lazy? … I am proof of teaching a teenager how much money, responsibility, accountability it takes to live. … I was never taught, but learned quickly after college & working for companies … what ROI means.”
I cringe so hard when we Boomers talk about how “we learned the value of hard work” blah blah blah — as if it hadn’t been a million times easier back then for us to get jobs and pay our bills and have plenty left over. Oh, and by “learning the value of ROI” — actually what we did was learn the immensely pragmatic and convenient value of selling our souls to big government and big corporations just to get a fat pension and health insurance or whatever. Gag.
(NOTE! There’s nothing wrong with wanting old-age security, health care etc. Those are basic human rights. But too many of us Boomers went about securing these things only for ourselves, instead of putting our power & energy into dismantling the whole sick system that commodifies people’s basic needs. We threw less-fortunate segments of the population under the bus, and we took for ourselves and ran with it off into the sunset. Now a lot of retired Boomers I know are living jetset lifestyles while the younger generations are having to work miserable jobs at inhumane hours and scrabble for every crumb just to keep a roof over their head, never mind pensions or dental plans and all those rosy things of the past.)
We marched for civil rights, went to Woodstock … then once the 80s hit, we turned into venal bourgeouis yuppies with bland lucrative desk jobs that fattened the vested interests. Jobs that were cushy in exchange for us suppressing our moral beliefs and going amnesiac about the evils of consumerism. (And yet we still don’t hesitate to play the “Woodstock activist cred” card when that comes up. It’s all really quite retch-worthy.)
Back to the TikTok meme comments … As I said above — Nothing wrong with listing old skills; it’s the smug condescending tone that I feel is just so wrong. Like, who do we Boomers think we are?? I totally see why the phrase “OK Boomer” exists!
So, in response to the aforementioned meme and comments, I wrote a comment advocating for TikTok:
Using TikTok is no harder than using Facebook. (And yes, I’m “old” and, same as you guys, I know how to do all the “old” stuff that people are listing in this post here.)
And, all that said — there are some really good reasons to get on TikTok, particularly if you are a fellow white Boomer who considers themself progressive.
TikTok is filled with learning and education. Like no other platform I know of. The trick is you have to proactively curate your feed.
<I removed this spicy paragraph from the version of this post that I posted as a comment on Facebook.> What TikTok isn’t, is dominated by us old white people. Our job on TikTok instead is to listen, learn, open ourselves to growth, and amplify marginalized voices. We don’t get to be bossy, smug, and condescending to young people or anyone else, as we have so often gotten away doing with in pretty much all the other channels of social media and life.<end spicy paragraph>
Anyone who wants to try TikTok, I will be happy to give you a tutorial and show you how to curate your feed. Also, my TikTok profile page is filled with great activist content that I’ve shared over the months.
<Added just now for this blog post>Here is my TikTok profile page for anyone who wants to check out TikTok (I think it’ll let you look at people’s pages without setting up an account, though I could be wrong about that). The URL is https://www.tiktok.com/@jennynazak?_t=8XjWVMIFIoV&_r=1 <end of added paragraph>
Fellow Boomers, if you can use Facebook and Snapchat with your grandkids and email and all that stuff … You can use TikTok. And there are lots of reasons to, if you care about being the change we want to see in the world.
<end of my Facebook comment>
• About Boomer grandparents vs Depression Generation grandparents: My Depression/WWII-generation grandparents taught us things. They taught us knitting, sewing, carpentry, fishing, cooking. They taught us the value of thrift, and we learned it joyfully by spending time in their houses (which were unassuming, were filled with sweet simple knicknacks, AND THE HOUSES WERE FULLY PAID-FOR as opposed to being mortgaged to the hilt for fancy 100K additions and back-to-back luxury cruises and such).
I realize not everyone’s grandparents were as loving, thrifty, happy, versed in cool skills, and overall wonderful as mine. And I realize that not all Boomer grandparents are Wall Street following, carbon spewing jetsetters, and consumer cucks (and this is the just the soi-disant “ecosocial progressive” subset I’m talking about here; not even including the conservative plutocrats who are surely even more of all that). But I do see a generational difference between Depression/WWII grandparents and Boomer grandparents, and am venturing to paint with a broad brush what I have seen and felt for a long time but have only recently begun to be able to put words to. Boomers, we need to be transmitting sound, adaptive skills and values to the younger generations. We’re not going to fix the planet by acting like a bunch of big self-indulgent babies. Our generation aspired to be revolutionaries at one point. Now it seems like we won’t even stand up to our HOAs, let alone stand up to creeping fascism. We need to step it up and not leave the younger generations with such a huge mess.
• About deeper feelings underlying what seems to be the smug condescending tone of us Boomers in like every public space: What’s coming across as smug and condescending is surely at least in part motivated by fear. Fear of one’s personal future; fear for the planet’s future. Elderly existential dread at maybe starting to wake up to the realization that we old white people are not the center of things, and that we need to take a seat. (Not that we don’t have a helping role to play — just that we need to be humble enough to listen and take direction.)? When I think of fear and pain and regret as underlying motivators for Boomer smugness, bossiness, and condescension, I can feel understanding and compassion for my fellow Boomers. However, this does NOT let us off the hook! We have a role to play in the revolution even if it’s just sweeping floors and making coffee as opposed to being the “star player” we always seem to get away with casting ourselves as. We always wanted a revolution, right? Well, one is happening right now, and we DO get to be part of it as long as we understand what’s up. We just don’t get to be overbearing dicks anymore.
On that note, I want to bring this post back around to TikTok. My invitation and challenge to you, should you choose to accept it, is to get on TikTok, visit my profile page, and start following the Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color whose richly educational videos I have shared on my page. In particular, start with Portia Noir, White Woman Whisperer, Desiree B Stephens, and Royal Star Defiant. And my further invitation and challenge is that you follow these educators for at least 30 days without commenting at all. Just listen! (Actually, Portia Noir has stated this as a boundary for us white people on her page. Just listen, no commenting. I think I may actually have observed this for 60 days rather than 30, but I wasn’t keeping count. And let me tell you, it’s a profound and necessary experience. It gets us out of the lifelong habit of centering ourselves. And the growth and learning that’s available to us as a result is phenomenal. Prepare to be humbled, prepare to be exhilarated and have your mind blown … and prepare to walk your talk more that you ever thought possible.)
• And a side note, about Twitter (since a lot of my fellow white progressive people are quitting Twitter because of the Trumpian Muskian changes): I’m still on Twitter but am taking a page from my TikTok approach: Have begun to more proactively curate my Twitter feed to follow Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color; as well as those of my fellow white people who are genuinely progressive and are on a path of antiracism work / decolonization work.
• One more thing: Boomers, if you’re flying to go see your grandkids four or five or ten times a year, I hate to break the news to you but you’d be benefiting your grandkids more by taking a no-fly pledge. Move to where your grandkids live if you like seeing them that much. Or if you don’t want to move to where they are, help their parents, your grown kids, move to where you are and get set up in business. And then you’ll be there to help their parents with childcare and things around the house. Use some of that fat retirement money to buy your grown kids a commercial building they can make a living off of. Or you could buy them a house. You might be thinking you don’t want to jeopardize your retirement security. But that IS a way to help secure your old-age security. If your investment is tied in with theirs, that’s more power and energy invested together. Immigrant communities in the USA and elsewhere have prospered by applying this principle.