Unpopular Opinion: We Need to Stop Using Age as an Insult

Amanda Anowi, Contributing Writer

I was scrolling through TikTok the other day and came across a video. It was about two people in a social media brawl: a woman calling out a 17-year-old because she was upset by something he had said. Instinctively, I hit the comments. And literally every single comment contained some version of the same message: “Why is an old lady having beef with a 17-year-old?”; “She should go back to the retirement home”; “This is embarrassing for her”; “She’s acting so immature.” All of these comments were made by other teens. 

Of course, I should have expected what I saw. I’ve seen it so many times before. Most drama on social media between a teen and an older person always includes the element of other teen commenters viciously attacking the older person’s age instead of focusing on who’s truly right or wrong in the situation. In this case, the woman had every right to be upset and call the teen out. However, that part was immediately overlooked simply because she was “an old woman calling out a teen.” Perhaps what was most alarming was the fact that there wasn’t one single comment pointing this issue out. That in itself proves how normalized these insults are.

To clarify, I am not saying that teens shouldn’t argue with older people. Because regardless of age, everyone has every right to start an argument if they feel upset. But it is this same concept of leaving age out of the equation that should be constant across all boards. Instead of looking at the situation as “an older person arguing with a younger person,” we should see them as two people arguing with each other and use moral judgment to arrive at our conclusions. Purely using an older person’s age as an attack on them only feeds into the stigma surrounding growing old, and I believe many teens recognize the stigma which pushes them to use such insults even more. In a way, it is almost like praise to their own selves for still having the luxury of being young. 

But they do not recognize the greater implications of such comments. That they are perpetuating something that shouldn’t be normalized. Because one day, we too will grow old. It happens to everyone — including the ones who can’t even imagine themselves one day looking like their parents. Those who are old now perhaps once thought they’d be forever young. And by continuing to let such comments go by, or by even making them ourselves, we are creating a future in which the next generation after us will be the ones dismissing our right to speak to them because of our age.

Even the argument that the older person should be “the more mature one” and hence should know not to argue, doesn’t hold. This implies that a teen is too young and hence not mentally capable of engaging in an actual argument with an older person. However, I would argue that anyone ages 15 and older is mature enough to have a reasonable argument with anyone. Especially when you consider the fact that with the internet and technology, teens are maturing faster than ever and have likely experienced most of what an older person has experienced — perhaps even more.

It’s time we let go of using age as an insult and begin to craft a new definition of old age as a beauty and a blessing. So that when we too are old, our younger generation will be able to understand that being old is normal and a part of life.