I was scrolling though my Facebook wall the other day and stumbled upon an article, referencing Generation Snowflake or The Snowflake Generation. Having not heard of it before, I opened the article, despite it coming from a newspaper that I would not part with my hard earned cash to purchase.
Wikipedia defines Generation Snowflake as a “neologistic term used to characterise the young adults of the 2010s as being more prone to taking offence and less resilient than previous generations, or as being too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own.”
An underlying sense of entitlement
The article concerned, was about specific comments made by a boarding school head teacher, Douglas Robb. Another newspaper picking up the story was The Telegraph. It reported that Mr Rob warned that “children are being mollycoddled” and that they have “an underlying sense of entitlement.” However, he did also state that he did not feel that they are entirely to blame based on the society that they live in and have been brought up in, highlighting things such as profuse advertising from birth, easy credit and an abundance of reality and social media stars. Even characters on popular sit-com shows can portray an unrealistic life, setting false expectations to the Snowflake Generation.
Is it fair for us to label generations in this way though? An insurance firm (1) have carried out some research that found 72 percent of 16-24 year olds think the term Generation Snowflake is unfairly applied, while 74 percent think it could have a negative effect on young people’s mental health. WHO (2003) found that 20 percent of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year. This is further supported by the insurance research which also revealed that young people are more likely to have experienced stress, anxiety and depression in the last year. It doesn’t seem right that we should add to this, by using unhelpful and unfair labels and thankfully the majority of adults agree on this.
Is it not reasonable to say that all previous generations have been the same in their own way? There has always been a proportion of a generation with grit and determination to achieve and be successful in life, whilst at the other end of the scale a percentage that don’t want to work for a living and feel that they are entitled to have everything handed to them on a plate. I would certainly say that about life in the United Kingdom where I am from. We now find that more unpopular jobs are carried out by immigrants who are hard workers and grateful for the opportunity to make a life for themselves and their families. Who knows what impact Brexit will have on this, but that’s a whole other article.
My nephew in Brazil, who is 17 years old has just started his first job. He will be working 35 hours a week whilst continuing with his education with 25 hours at school plus study and homework time. Two years ago he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, which he is still being treated for. That doesn’t sound very Snowflake Generation to me! He is not alone either. It is very common in Brazil to have a job whilst finishing your schooling, with many students working during the days then going to school at night and vice versa.
So where does this sense of entitlement come from? I believe we need to look at our own generations, those preceding the Snowflake Generation. It goes back to Mr Robb’s comments about the world and society we have developed around them. The youth of today are under as much pressure as previous generations, only it’s a different kind. We live in a more and more artificial society where we are constantly bombarded with images of how we should look and dress, what possessions we should have and what we should be doing to be cool. Reality TV and social media tells us that these things are easy to come by and that we can all get rich without really having to try. The truth of course is completely the opposite. It is becoming harder and harder for people to get on the property ladder, with national household debt on the increase. There is more competition for well paid jobs as industries seek to cut terms and conditions as well as close pension schemes to plug huge deficits. We are living longer and constant changes to working contracts, terms and conditions means many people are having to work beyond the age of 65 before they can consider retiring. Suddenly, it seems quite a bleak outlook for the Snowflake Generation and I know I would not want to be in the shoes of my nieces and nephews.
We all have a part to play in society. Our role as adults from other generations is to teach and lead the younger ones. We are their peers and it’s down to us to give them the tools to find their way through an ever evolving world. After all, progress brings it’s own issues. There would be no cyber bullying without cyberspace. Bullying itself is getting more exposure as we strive to find ways to combat it. Labelling an entire generation as Snowflake, could perhaps be perceived as a form of bullying on it’s own. We have the power to change the way we see our younger generations. If we get it right, leading by example then surely that will be handed down to their younger generations which can only make for a better world.
‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’