In my post about The University of Missouri, I mentioned that I agree to some extent that my generation is overly sensitive or “too coddled,” as many are saying. I wrote then, and stand by my word, that this does not apply to what happened at Mizzou and what continues to happen with racial injustice across campuses and cities around the country. However, I do want to share my thoughts on when it does apply and why I think this is happening.
I guess my first point is the fine line between raging against a longstanding system and being too sensitive. The reason I don’t think Mizzou had to do with sensitivity is because racism has and continues to be a system on which our country operates. That is a fact. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. When students say, “Hey I’m not going to be a pawn in this system anymore,” they are choosing to stop complying with the mechanics of this system and trying to make a change. When a student says, “This is offensive I don’t want to hear it,” they are being too sensitive. I mean this especially in the case of education. Like if a student says, “I’m not reading Huckleberry Finn because it uses the N-word,” I would say that’s being overly sensitive. That is inhibiting their own education because certain things were more acceptable in that time period. Do you see the difference?
People now are just looking for someone to blame. A lot of fingers are pointing at me and my generation for just being too sensitive and overly coddled. This is funny because last I checked we didn’t raise ourselves. Not to say that parents are to blame either. But we have to look at the timeline of my generation.
We are the participation trophy generation. Since I started t-ball at age 5, I was showed that if I showed up, I would get a trophy. Our coaches (who were often our parents) told us that everyone was good enough no matter how much better or worse you did than the other kids. There was still a prize at the end of the season.
We are the “No Child Left Behind” generation. I had my first standardized test in 3rd grade. As a ten-year-old, I was responsible for determining the funding my school received. Maybe it wasn’t that extreme, but I’m pretty sure I’m not far off. From then on, I was a test score before I was a student.
We are the selfie generation. Yes. Social media has doomed us all. Myspace came out when I was 7. Facebook the year after. So by the time I was old enough to join, I could already have 100 people be my “friend” and pay attention to whatever I wanted to say. In a way, social media is a lot like a participation trophy. Anyone can join, and at least one other person will likely give you a thumbs up just for typing the words, “I farted.”
It’s no wonder we’re soo messed up. We are the first generation that has hardly lived in a time where we couldn’t send a message to millions of people in an instant. We have become dependent on that ability to gain attention without working towards acclamation.
This is not to say my generation is a generation of underachievers. I think we will end up being a generation of amazing overachievers, but we’re not quite there yet. We need to figure out how to use all this power for good. I think we’re starting to do that, every time we post something and say, “Why is no one talking about this?” Every time we use our smartphones to help our parents and grand parents, we’re using that power for good. Every time we post meaningful things online we’re using that power for good.
I think the misuse of that power is a big source of that oversensitivity. If we’re not being praised for insignificant action, we play the victim because it’s an easy way to gain that attention back. I think it’s stupid. I think it’s childish. And too often, it’s not just annoying to other people, it’s inhibiting our own growth. We use these catchphrases we learn online like “politically correct” and “triggering” to describe situations that have nothing to do with such adjectives, and suddenly we’re putting ourselves in a corner because the world is “too offensive.”
Look, friends, it’s easy for me to say it because I have always been tough-skinned (I’m the youngest of 4, I had to be), but grow up. If you feel attacked, don’t cry about it, do something about it. If you feel opposed, form an argument. If you feel like someone doesn’t understand you, try to understand them. We have all our priorities messed up, and this idealistic society we think we’re creating is not going to work. There’s always going to be a hater, but crying in the corner isn’t going to get rid of them.