the boomers are not all right: how social media obsessions are destroying families

Older, conservative Americans have become engrossed in conspiracy theories and fear-mongering propaganda. Now, they’re paying the price as their families start to cut ties.
lonely on a boat

Followers of QAnon, the unwanted hate-child of the Satanic Panic and the Blood Libel raised by the Taxil Hoax, desperately want you to know something very important about following them down the rabbit hole to insanity. If you devote yourself to letting your mind rot while looking for imaginary monsters based on purposefully disjointed ramblings of an anonymous message board user just like they did, you will learn the dark truth about the forces of evil that secretly rule this world. Oh, and your family and friends will stop talking to you, so your only company will be other QAnon devotees while everything you knew and loved about the world will be tainted with forbidden, horrible knowledge.

Every day on Twitter you can find another dozen threads from the Q faithful lamenting that as they started talking about their latest obsession with their families, they were met by bemused laughter that quickly turned to tension, then escalated to anger, and now, six months to a year later, the family isn’t even visiting anymore. While as a person, I feel for them to some extent, I can also understand exactly why their families aren’t in a rush to schedule some quality time and don’t blame those families one bit. As Winston Churchill once said, a fanatic is someone who won’t change their mind and refuses to change the subject, and this is very true of the Cult of Q who manage to poison just about everything, even the nation’s intelligence services.

Since their conspiracy theory encompasses literally everything, no topic is safe. Your favorite actor or actress? A Satanic cannibal pedophile. Your favorite author? Secretly executed for her sedition and high crimes. The politician debating with Trump and the GOP? Under secret house arrest. Or maybe also executed and that’s his clone, as not to alert the others to their looming fate. If you’re a parent of young children, the last thing you want is to pick them up from a trip to grandma and grandpa’s only to find them crying because peepaw said that unless daddy votes for Trump, they’ll be sold into sex slavery, then eaten. And since you know this is a very plausible outcome, you’ll refuse to send them.

how the boomers ate america alive

But there’s more to it than just obsessive, paranoid conspiracy theorists. A disturbing share of baby boomers –- many of whom also tend to be devoted QAnon followers –- spend their days spreading fake news and lashing out on social media at their families while virtually patting each other on the back. While they may not necessarily be as lonely as past studies believed, they are becoming more insular online and in meatspace, binging on news designed to scare them. Decades of this turned two thirds of boomers into a retrograde gerontocracy afflicted with a strain of narcissism that often prompts them to lash out at their own children while refusing to accept constructive criticism.

So, is it really any wonder that after growing up being constantly berated and forced into what is effectively a societal version of indentured servitude, the children of baby boomers are sick and tired of dealing with their tantrums and entitlement? Their parents made use of cheap colleges and trade schools, started with salaries that would be considered spectacular when adjusted for inflation, enjoyed cheap, employer-sponsored healthcare and pensions, and are now receiving taxpayer-provided medicine and retirement. They’ll leave this world with huge debts future generations will spend lifetimes paying, and a political and social landscape closer to a failed state than a global superpower. In other words, they bled America dry.

They may not have done this consciously, in fact, many of them probably thought they were doing what was best and that their nation was invincible, with infinite wealth and will to solve its problems. After all the parasitizing they did, the boomers didn’t even end up with much as they head into retirement, and nearly 60% of them think the country is headed in the wrong direction, with the numbers continuing to plummet. For the last three decades, they voted in every election, no matter how minor, and reshaped the nation in their image. Now, unable to cope with the fact that this is what a country shaped in their image looks like, they’re lashing out and looking for scapegoats.

why fox news poisoning is reaching a critical point

By far the biggest gateway to a world where boomers are faultless and the paradise they meant to build was simply corrupted by young people, immigrants, and minorities is Fox News. Older voters looking for someone to blame for the mess they see all around them find it both a salve and an upper. On the one hand, it consoles boomers, validates their choices, and plays right into the rose-colored nostalgia of their youth which — to borrow from Bojack Horseman – turns red flags into nothing more than flags. On the other, it constantly gives them new scapegoats, and it’s so effective that entire volumes have been written about the phenomenon that millennials call Fox News poisoning.

The details of every story are different, but the plot is always the same. Parents start watching the cable news channel more and more until they refuse to shut it off, then become angrier, more bigoted, and more confrontational, turning on their own families and picking fights just to pick fights. Far too many also start descending down the right wing labyrinth leading to the propaganda channel OANN, neo-Nazi publications like Breitbart, and eventually, InfoWars and Alex Jones. It’s at this point when your uncle or mom suddenly starts sharing posts that sound like dispatches from a sci-fi dystopia, often guided by Facebook’s recommendation algorithms into following ever more insane and unhinged groups and pages.

Now, just imagine having to visit your parents for a week or invite your aunt and uncle over so they can pick endless fights with you, regurgitating the fiery rhetoric of angry pundits, blaming you for ruining the world with minorities, immigrants, and Jews. Doesn’t that sound about as lovely as having an unanesthetized root canal by a guy in a dingy basement that you found on a random website? Is it any wonder you’ll want to unfriend them on Facebook and turn down invitations to visit them because while you may be up for a spirited debate about politics and the future, all you’ll end up getting is a steady stream of asinine conspiracies, bigotry, and abuse?

Really, the only surprise here is why it’s taking so long for conspiracy-addled and perpetually angry boomers to realize why their families are starting to cut them out of their lives, especially after the last four years. Their total inability to understand why they’re driving everyone but random internet shut-ins away on their own should be an obvious sign that they may indeed be a lost cause, and that a trained professional should be evaluating where they fall along the Dark Tetrad while asking if they’re still capable of seeing people who disagree with them as human.

# oddities // boomers / conspiracy / qanon


  Show Comments