In Defence of the Snowflake

When I’m having a ‘tough day,’ or a ‘mental week’ and express a negative opinion on what’s happening to me, on occasion I hear something along the lines of “Man up!” or “It was ten times harder in my day!” Basically, opinionated statements thrown in my face by people older than me to make me feel that I have no right to feel the way I do. This is something that I’m sure ALL of the people reading this blog have heard before. Thankfully, I don’t really get offended by these statements as these people don’t KNOW me or really anything about what I’m going through – they just want to make the moment about them for a few minutes. Whatevs Trevs, crack on!

The reason I bring this up today though is following a conversation I was having with a friend last week. Albeit for different organisations, in our job roles we both have the privilege of working with and coaching what some people like to call ‘Millennials.’

Millennial (noun) – a person born in the 1980s or 1990s, especially in the U.S; a member of Generation Y (Definition courtesy of www.dictionary.com)

I myself am a Millennial but I am not of the age group of the type of Millennial I’m going to talk about in this article. I am referring to the group that have become more commonly known as “Generation Snowflake.” This is the term given to young adults of the 2010s who ‘apparently’ have very little resilience when it comes to tackling problems and working hard. They are also accused of often taking offence when receiving feedback, whether in work or by the older generation. These supposed Snowflakes are considered too emotionally vulnerable for the ‘real world’ and deemed incapable of coping with views which rival their own.

The term Generation Snowflake was once considered slang, however in 2016 it was observed as one of Collins Dictionary’s words of the year. The Financial Times also recognised it exactly the same way.

An article in The Independent back in September this year brought to light a controversial view on Snowflakes by sharing the views of Connecticut Businessman, Kyle Reyes, who has devised a “Snowflake Test” in his company’s interview process, asking curveball questions such as when applicants last cried and why.

What winds me up however is the fact that there is a vicious label such as this for this generation of young people. I have worked for a youth charity for the last six years and before that as an Adviser to 18-24 year-olds. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I’ve met and got to know thousands upon thousands of this generation. I have watched some overcome barriers that I was lucky enough not to have in front of me growing up.

I have seen someone balance work experience in the hope of employment all whilst being a carer for two family members.

I have seen someone experience loss of parents at a young age and still turn up to an employment programme with a smile on their face and ready to help customers.

I have seen someone constantly rejected by employers for the way they looked, work insanely hard on a training course and then gain full-time, permanent employment.

I have seen someone supporting a work colleague through bereavement whilst suffering their own personal battles to financially support their child.

I have seen someone rejected by their family because of sexual preference turn up to a training course to better themselves every day as if nothing was wrong.

I have seen someone work hard in their GCSE exams the same week they spent every night in a theatre performing in a show and perfecting their work-life balance.

I have seen someone try their hardest to learn a new job whilst slowly losing their sight.

I have seen hundreds battling depression, anxiety and personal demons in the hope of improving their lives whether that be getting a job, going back to education or just leaving the house every day and meeting new people.

I am inspired every day of my life by someone new from this so-called Generation Snowflake. Can the small-minded people who label them this really hand on heart say that they were never emotionally affected by their environment whilst growing up? I really doubt it. Just because their issues might not necessarily be like yours now, trying to financially recover from a messy divorce or struggling to pay the University fees for your 18-year-old son, doesn’t mean they are not as emotionally devastating.

Finally, to draw attention to the statement of how Snowflakes are unable to deal with views which rival their own or how they talk about their feelings too much. I can answer this with just two words: Social Media. These days we have a wide range of platforms on which we can express our opinions. These opinions differentiate us as a race from more basic life forms and through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc, we can share them with the world and whoever else wants to listen. If you don’t want to hear what this generation have to say, then Unfollow them. Unsubscribe to them. Unfriend them. Log out of the Matrix, whatever you need to do to avoid these views which irk you so much. Just don’t for one second believe that you wouldn’t have been as opinionated so freely if social media was available to you when you were young.

If we must insist on using this term, then why not recognise that maybe we all as race come under this umbrella. We are all unique with different issues, feelings, opinions, values and emotional pain thresholds, regardless of our age.

So stop labelling them, cut them some slack and consider that we might all be Snowflakes.

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