The two things that I wish we had taught this generation but didn’t.
I know, I hate the term Snowflake Generation too, but I’m trying to prove a point here, so bear with me. There were two things that bother me a lot when I looked at Generation Z and their on-line behaviour, two things that I wasn’t sure how they would play out when they got older, so I waited to see before I even spoken about them.
Here are the two things that bothered me:
1. Like for a rate. This I saw a lot on Instagram; you liked a person’s photo and they rated you generally on looks out of 10. It took on lots of different forms, but generally it involved someone else passing opinion on you, or you passing opinion on them.
2. Triggers – now I’m all for a warning if something contains something that might offend and cause distress, but suddenly everything became a trigger and contained a warning, so much so that a lot of schools became environments where anything whatsoever that may cause offence was removed or dealt with swiftly.
I remembered been super-concerned about the things at the time. The like for a rate, while obviously shallow and degrading, seemed to value someone’s opinion of yourself and you’re their opinion of you as really important. It always sought an opinion for a like in some form.
Triggers I felt were much more problematic. While I believe we should protect the vulnerable, I also believe that there comes a point when we should also teach people how to deal with things that trigger them. As you get older it’s not really someone else’s job to protect you and when will mollycoddled children ever learn to deal with triggers, which will no doubt show up everywhere. Also perhaps and more dangerously, is to assume that people can’t deal with these triggers and that being offended by something was a reaction rather than a choice that you may be able to control.
So I wanted to see what would happen and how these things would play out.
The results are messy to say the least and hugely problematic at their worst.
A strange sense of entitlement
A lot of these over protected snowflake children have grown up with a very strange sense of entitlement that will not serve them in later life. They seem to think that their opinion is always being asked for and give it freely and as if it is the Gospel, and if something you do makes them feel uncomfortable or offends them, they blame you. It’s all very strange.
I’ll give you a few examples.
When Bronte posts her behind-the-scenes on Instagram to help people learn to do what she does, people pass judgment. Not constructive at all, just a one-sentence, unhelpful judgment. I mean, it makes no sense, it was never asked for. And when she wrote something about it, suggesting perhaps that people’s opinions be kept to themselves, she got called all sorts.
Opinion is something we all have, but for the most part it is best kept to ourselves unless asked for.
This is a lesson that they never seemed to learn in a world where they learnt to give it and pass it so freely. And if you give your opinion and someone gets annoyed, that’s the price you pay – that isn’t the person getting over-sensitive. It’s some kind of inflated privilege that this generation think if someone shares something on line they are asking for feedback; they are not. I do see a lot of young people asking for feedback online; which picture do you prefer, did you like the before or after and that’s fine, pass your judgment if they asked for it, but something shared is not an invitation to judge. If our young people go on in life thinking that everything is asking for judgment and opinion and that their opinion is absolutely right, the world is going to become a very dreary and unhappy place to live.
Keep your opinions on others to yourself unless you are asked for them or you are sharing them as part of your work.
Now let’s think about these triggers and people taking offence. Offence is an interesting thing and I truly believe that being offended is a choice for the most part. If you look at what most people do on line they don’t do it to be offensive (yes, that are those that do, but I’m not talking about them) most people don’t have the intention to offend someone. How can someone taking offence be the fault of the person who created the content?
Bronte once created a picture of her standing on books; people from the other side of the world took offence for reasons of culture. How was she to know that this offended some cultures and where is the respect for the fact that she feels and thinks differently?
It seems that we can’t do anything nowadays without someone taking offence at it.
And I don’t know about you, but a sterile world where we are all so scared to do anything in case it unintentionally offends another is not a world I want to live in. Will it get to the point where we can’t talk about getting pregnant because it may offends people who can’t (wait, what am I talking about? It already has).
I’m not saying we should be insensitive; Bronte hasn’t done another picture of her stood on books since learning that it offended people, but we should we able to live our lives not being worried about our every move being offensive, or else none of us will do anything.
So my two calls to arms I guess, the two things that I wish we had taught this generation but didn’t.
1. Someone sharing something is not asking for your opinion. Give your opinion only if another asks for it, you’re really not that important I’m afraid.
2. If a person never meant offence, then you being offended is your choice and while demanding respect from someone who didn’t intent to offend, you should also respect them. You have the right to be offended but you must know that it’s a choice and you can’t blame others for your choice.