5 Ways Baby Boomers Keep Getting Worse
You've probably heard all the standard jokes about old people. They smell weird, they drive badly, they're fucking terrible at Super Smash Bros., etc. But thanks to the glory of science and research, there's a whole new crop of stereotypes that we can hone about the elderly (and more specifically, baby boomers). And most of them are a little depressing.
They're The Ones Spreading Fake News
Anyone who has made the mistake of having both an extended family and a Facebook account knows there's no shortage of fake news out there. Whether it's a blog like RedWhiteAndTrue.com telling them Obama is vaccinating their kids with gay, or a meme that says shit like "Liberals are against Trump's wall, but their own homes have at least four of them!" it's only going to get worse as the next election heats up.
And ironically, while lots of those memes are about young people destroying the world with their Instagram addictions and gender-neutral restrooms, it's the boomers who are ruining society by sharing bullshit. A study found that they are four times as likely to share fake news on Facebook, and twice as likely as the second-oldest age group that was looked at.
It sort of makes sense. Younger people grew up with the internet, and so hopefully are a little more familiar with what viral bullshit looks like. Boomers lived most of their lives without it, and now every single bit of information in the history of humanity, real or otherwise, is at their fingertips. Learning to separate real stuff from troll nonsense can be a process, and it's not even clear that they're trying.
And remember, this isn't just a handful of grandparents complaining about the Deep State. The number of Facebook users over the age of 65 in the United States is now greater than that of users between the ages of 13 and 17. Baby boomers control the flow of information on the largest social media platform, and they're terrible at it. Also ...
They're More Politically Polarized Than Ever
This era is as polarized as any in recent memory, but some groups are more polarized than others. For the past 20 years, people over the age of 65 have become much more politically polarized than younger generations. In fact, their "partisan affect polarization" increased at a rate three times greater than that of people between the ages of 18 and 39.
As for why, it's anyone's guess. One documentary filmmaker pointed out that some boomers are angry over having lost retirement accounts in the recent economic collapse. Some thought Obama's presidency signaled a victory for their old counterculture views, with Trump then taking things a step back. And I'm sure some just woke up from a nap and are cranky as hell.
But it also might have to do with the fact that people vote similarly to their neighbors, with polarization increasing as different demographic groups have clustered together. There are far more landslide counties now than there were in the past. So you've got a lot of boomers who've all settled near each other and spent most of their lives living around like-minded people. And when one person on the block starts caring too much about Hillary's emails, EVERYONE on the block starts caring too much about Hillary's emails.
They're More Addicted To Their Phones Than Young People
Older people showing disdain for the technology of the young is a tradition that probably goes back to the Stone Age. ("A real man would remove the animal's scrotum with his teeth, not some fancy flint blade!") Today, the complaint baby boomers make is that these damn kids won't get off their phones, with their main point being "How can people enjoy and live a fulfilling life when, ummm, phones!?"
But this is kind of a pot and cellular kettle situation, because according to a Nielsen global survey, millennials and Gen Y'ers aren't the ones who need to close their Facebook app at dinner. Studies show boomers are most likely to be distracted by their phones during meals. After all, how else will they be able to keep up with the latest op-eds explaining why millennials are ruining America? How will they share their Qanon memes?
And unfortunately for those of us who value public safety and not dying in an inferno, old people having smartphones is ruining a lot more than suppers. Boomers are starting to use their phones behind the wheel, and a study in Australia found it affects their driving far more, and makes them more likely to have serious accidents than other drivers. You can lip-sync for TikTok when you get home, grandma!
They're Cheating In Relationships More
For the last few years, we've been bombarded with hot takes about how stuff like Tinder and the dreaded specter of "hookup culture" are killing romance. But maybe we shouldn't point fingers at young people having consenting noncommittal relationships, and instead check out the 20 percent of people over the age of 55 who've reported having extramarital affairs. For comparison, among those under the age of 37, only 12 percent reported cheating.
But why is it happening? Did they watch Don Draper in Mad Men and think, "Well, I'm not THAT much older than Jon Hamm"? Some suspect that it's due to the proliferation of the internet giving them more ways to cheat. Some say it's because on average, people are waiting later to get married, and so they're less likely to feel resentment toward a partner they rushed into things with.
Hell, the AARP says that it's due to midlife crises, and then does whatever the blog equivalent is of crossing its arms and refusing to negotiate. Either way, this is the generation yelling at everyone about preserving the sanctity of marriage, and it sounds like they may be projecting a little.
They're Becoming Increasingly Isolated
Shows like Golden Girls and Grace & Frankie are massively popular and all about older women being friends, making quips, and apparently living in a universe where Social Security is off the charts. So who's to say that something like that can't happen in real life? Well, real life.
A study of behavior among various age groups in the United States reveals that "55-to-64-year-olds just about to join the ranks of the elderly are far less socially engaged now than their predecessors were at the same age 20 years ago." That's a really nice way to say that old people are lonely.
They spend less time with neighbors, less time participating in the community, and less time at church. And compared to earlier generations, today's older people are even having fewer quality interactions with their spouses, though the bit about cheating might help explain that one.
There are a few hypotheses about this. Are they working longer hours? Is it that dang social media? Or is it because many of them broke from their own familial traditions when they were younger, and they're now paying the price for not following in the footsteps of the Super Boomers, or whatever we're supposed to call the generation before them?
Whatever the reason, it does not sound like fun. So the next time a 70-year-old comments on your Facebook status to tell you to "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and stop being so sensitive!" what he's really saying is, "Well, statistically, my entire demographic is miserable."
Joe Oliveto also writes collections of scary stories and urban legends that you can and should buy.
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