"oomer Remover," a mean nickname for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, began trending on Twitter early Friday.
The term has appeared in more than 65,000 tweets and references the higher mortality rate among older people infected with COVID-19—particularly among people over 60, including the Boomer Baby age cohort approximately between the ages of 56 and 74.
The nickname is most often touted by teenagers, with adults then sharing the term on social media, as in this early viral example of the trend:
But while the trending topic has generated lots of anger, its early mentions on social media were mostly apocryphal anecdotes, rather than people wielding the name as an expression of anger directed at people over 55.
"Heard like a 15 year old kid call corona the 'boomer remover' in line at the store and it's had me on hard tilt all day," reads one representative early usage. "Kids are so mean bro lol."
As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, more and more data points to its particular danger to the elderly. More than 1,000 people have died of the disease in Italy, with a March 4 analysis of its first 105 victims finding an average age of 81. In the landlocked Hubei province, where the novel coronavirus originated, China's Center for Disease Control found a variable mortality rate among its first 72,000 patients. According to Vox, COVID-19 was fatal for more than one percent of people who contracted the disease between the age of 50-59, with the mortality rate soaring in higher age brackets: to 4.6 percent among 60-69 year olds and nearly ten percent for victims between the age of 70 and 79.
In the United States, many of the age groups correlated with higher mortality rates after COVID-19 infection could be categorized as Baby Boomers, often shortened to Boomers—an especially large demographic, created by a "boom" in post-World War II births. Wielding considerable economic, social and political power, the Boomers have become a recent cultural fixation, particularly among Millennials and younger generations. Viral catchphrases like "Okay, Boomer" prod the older generation's perceived cluelessness and anger at the changing culture.
Nicknaming COVID-19 the "Boomer Remover" began at the very end of February, with only a handful of social media mentions through the first week of March. One early example, posted by comedian Toby Muresianu of the Up Close & Political podcast, jokingly urged the use of "boomer remover" as a replacement for "Wuhan virus"—the name for the COVID-19 virus preferred by prominent conservatives and racists working to keep the blame focused on
By March 12, jokes renaming or describing COVID-19 as "boomer remover" were widespread, but the nickname for the coronavirus pandemic didn't really take off until Thursday. By Friday morning "Boomer Remover" was trending on Twitter in the United States.
Boomer Remover has since become a battleground for generational warfare on social media, frequently couched as a natural consequence of how the Baby Boomer generation has treated the planet or approached politics—either an unfortunate outgrowth of the more conservative brand of politics suggested by Baby Boomer voting demographics relative to Millennials and Generation Z, or a deserved comeuppance for damage done to the environment and/or social fabric. In response, Boomers and Boomer defenders have used the trending term to decry young people's alleged dependency.
As with every trending topic, a portion of the trend is caused by people decrying the trend. In two posts, Twitter user @DerArschloch helpfully demonstrated both sides of the raging social media tussle over the term:
Beyond its use by young people describing or urging on (mostly jokingly) the higher mortality rate suffered by older people infected with the novel coronavirus, Boomer Remover has also found traction as an indictment of the generation's perceived myopia.
A Thursday article in The Washington Post has become associated with the trending term by highlighting Boomers ignoring advice from the CDC and refusing alterations to their lifestyle. On a Facebook page for The Villages, a Florida retirement community (and the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States), a majority of residents seemed to agree that the pandemic was "being overblown."
Many on social media have compared the reaction to similar generational splits found among voting populations on other world-scale crises, including preferred government responses to global warming
Since all generational narratives assign stereotyped attributes and flatten massive demographics into loose age categories, the trending use of Boomer Remover as a nickname for coronavirus inevitably involves sweeping statements and attacks, guaranteed to leave everyone feeling aggrieved, misunderstood and ill-used.
It's no wonder that "Boomer Remover" has become an epicenter for social media strife.