‘The Millennial Snowflake’ — How generation Y is exposing the power of words.
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‘Millennial snowflake’ refers to an individual that is “genuinely distressed by ideas that run contrary to their worldview’ and whom ‘exhibits an inflated sense of one’s own ego’. This narrative can find it’s roots in Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel Fight Club, and its 1999 film adaptation, both of which include the line “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”. The term is often used to belittle and undermine individuals who disagree with ‘the obvious norm’ of the status quo. It paints a picture of an emotional young person, throwing a tantrum and showing little respect for those around them, namely their elders.
Believe it or not, I have difficulty with this narrative (Does this by definition ‘snowflake’ me?). To me, it creates a one-dimensional, dismissive attitude to the wellbeing of a living, breathing, experiencing-the-world-around-them individual. It tells you that regardless of how you think or feel, it doesn’t matter. It says that another individual’s thoughts and experiences are more important than yours and therefore must be allowed to dictate you.
The reality is that the world around us does not take a one size fits all approach. It is in a state of constant flux where the norms, values and ideas that are central to a community will move in association with the growing demographic of it’s members. In recent years, this growth has been in line with a wider acknowledgement that individual experiences can vary hugely. While it is valid to believe that change should not come, it is equally as valid to believe that change must come and to fight with every bit of your energy to ensure it does. But what happens when opposing views exist? How do we move forward as individuals and as a society? This brings attention to a key element at play — the power of words.
“Facts don’t care about your feelings”
This statement is thrown around with ease at present. It is used with the (misguided) belief that it takes down any and all opposition. After all, how can anyone argue with cold, hard facts. In a manner of speaking, it is true, facts don’t care about feelings, because facts don’t care about anything… facts are words and words aren’t sentient. So, let’s be clear, anyone who says this are saying one singular thing:
“I do not care about your wellbeing or the impact I have on you because my words are more powerful than yours”.
The reality is that words are a conduit of cultural expression, both individually and shared. They can subsequently vary significantly from one person to another depending on their their cultural understanding and experiences.
So if words don’t care, why are they important?
Because they are critical to conveying any idea of a message. Now more than ever it is important for us to consider how and why we communicate. When facing obstacles, we can’t rest on our internal moral validation or the age old “just because” narrative. In this world where it is easier than ever before to share one’s own voice and to listen and respond to others, we are routinely being dismissive and hurtful with our words. I’m talking regardless of political or social identity, across the board we have moved to a playground mentality of “well they started it”.
It’s about time we relearnt the power of compassionate storytelling where we can use words as connectors for people and ideas rather than as weapons of destruction. It is by recognizing and making the most of the power that words have and the social narrative that we put forth through them — of pain, of love, of sadness, of compassion and of growth and excitement — that we are more likely to get people on board with our ideas and ensure our society is representative of all of its members as much as possible. This is how we build open and positive relationships and find the shared middle ground that benefits society.
It must be noted that this isn’t just a journey for the” political right” but for everyone. We as an engaged society have lost the ability to debate with care, honesty, respect and resilience. A way forward with this is for us all to focus on the intent we have with our words as well as their impact. While its true that you can’t ensure everyone takes your words in the way you meant, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work to bridge the two as far as possible. If it your intent to create a more equal, safe and compassionate society that is fit for purpose, think about how you get people on board. If your intent is to create pain and distress with your words, then be prepared to be left in the wind of a strong, open and participatory society.
Society isn’t stagnant… It moves and transforms as it ages. The story it tells isn’t owned by any single one of us, but is effected by every last one of us. The” Do as you’re told” and” that’s just how things are” narratives are being changed at their core and Gen Y are a major part of that. You have a choice — let your voice be heard as a component of that (but not then entirety) or pull away and hide. It’s the same choice generations have had to make before us and undoubtably will be the choice that all future generations will need to make. I personally am excited for what the future may hold in that regard — I want generations after me to educate me on new identities, new beliefs and new ways to live life to the best.
The best way to conclude is through a quote from the film V for Vendetta
“Everybody is special. Everybody. Everybody is a hero, a lover, a fool, a villain. Everybody. Everybody has their story to tell.”
So let’s share our stories
Let’s listen to others
But most of all
Let’s do it with some god damn respect.