By Diya Nanavati
Warning: the contents of this article may be offensive to some people… but then again, isn’t everything?
In the 21st century, social media has taken the world by storm. As we become more aware of issues and beliefs around us, we try to understand and sympathize with everyone. However, in an increasingly interconnected world, where fiery tweets and clap back comments have the potential to become full-blown internet wars, we have become hypersensitive, too fragile to constructively combat microaggression.
We are the snowflake generation, my generation – those offended by just about everything. Therefore, it is important to question, is society really too easily offended? And is our desire to censor anything we find mildly “offensive” infringing on our freedom of expression?
December 10th, 2018. World-famous singer, Beyonce, was invited to perform at an Indian wedding, where she wore a seemingly traditional Indian-style dress. Minutes later, her social media was flooded with outraged comments and criticism. People immediately accused her of “#culturalappropriation”; however, as an Indian, it was clear to me that Beyonce didn’t harm, affect, or insult my culture. Rather, she embraced it, so why all the fuss?
Two weeks ago, I saw a post on Instagram by a feminist account saying, “girls, you don’t need a man”, and in the comment section, a man claimed he was “extremely offended”. Victimizing himself for an issue that in no way harmed him, he argued that by advocating for women, feminism excluded men! Without listening to a voice of reason, the accuser demanded that the feminist Instagram account delete their post immediately!
These are just a few of the many ways that show how we blow situations out of proportion. We take offense to things that do not harm us, and attack people instead of having constructive, civil discussions or debates about controversial topics, whether it be cultural appropriation, gender rights, or even a certain questionable presidency.
However, being easily offended by everything creates a self-perpetuating cycle where we are becoming less resilient to situations around us. Reshaping society, we are confining ourselves in a bubble of “political correctness” in order to prevent offending people. The minute we step out of this safety bubble, we are vulnerable to attack by a myriad of upset voices. Best stated by Psychology Today, not only does that “stifle our freedom of expression… (it) encourages societal stasis rather than progress,” preventing societal development (Nemko).
Yet, many critics disagree with the idea that the Snowflake Generation is too easily offended, saying that there are many issues we should be offended by – things that discriminate, insult, stereotype, or marginalize people. And I agree. However, many of the issues we are “offended” by don’t fall under these categories! Focusing on petty grievances just for the sake of arguing, as we do currently, downplays the major issues that we should be offended by. We are angered by anyone with a diametrically opposing viewpoint. This stigmatizes the concept of “being offended”, discrediting those who are actually fighting against discrimination!
Why are we focusing on Beyonce’s clothing, Miley Cyrus’ dreadlocks, Coldplay’s “Hymn for the Weekend” video, and random posts on feminist Instagram accounts, when we could be focusing on battling racism, misogyny, bullying, and other genuinely harmful situations?
In 2016, fifty-nine percent of the United States’ population believed that too many people are easily offended these days, according to a Pew Research Center study (Fingerhut). Therefore, maybe we are finally starting to understand how our society is becoming increasingly fragile… and maybe, it’s not too late to improve.
What if we stopped seeing anything slightly controversial or opinionated as offensive?
What if we saw controversy as, instead, an opportunity to have respectful discussions?
What if we opened our minds, looking at certain ideas as constructive criticism instead of offense?
What if we simply stopped making mountains out of molehills?
Right now, these “what ifs” may just be a figment of our imagination, but it’s up to us to turn them into a reality and stop being such “snowflakes”… no offense.
- Fingerhut, Hannah. “In ‘Political Correctness’ Debate, Most Americans Think Too Many People Are Easily Offended.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 20 July 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/20/in-political-correctness-debate-most-americans-think-too-many-people-are-easily-offended/.
- Nemko, Marty. “Taking Offense.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Oct. 2014, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-do-life/201410/taking-offense.
- Molloy, Mark. “How Far Have Women’s Rights Advanced in a Century? .” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 3 Feb. 2018, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/far-have-womens-rights-advanced-century/.
- “Offensive.” The Awkward Yeti, 5 May 2016, theawkwardyeti.com/comic/offensive/.
- Warner, Cat. “Beyoncé Slammed For Cultural Appropriation After Performing At Indian Wedding.” Capital XTRA, Capital XTRA, 11 Dec. 2018, http://www.capitalxtra.com/artists/beyonce/news/slammed-cultural-appropriation-indian-wedding/.