Is Gen Z a ‘snowflake’ generation?

By Hai Hien, Quynh Nguyen   March 10, 2024 | 02:47 am PT
After watching her daughter Mai Linh change jobs three times in six months, Lan scolded her harshly, prompting the young woman to angrily leave home and stay at a friend's house for a week.

The 52-year-old woman who has been stuck at the same government job all of her life suffered severe anxiety with her daughter quitting work every month or two.

Linh’s reasons for quitting varied: low salary, being assigned too much work, or too much scolding from her boss. Once it was even simply "disliking a colleague."

In Lan’s eyes, the problem is that Linh can’t handle pressure, so the mother repeatedly told her child off for "not having perseverance," especially because all her friends had stable jobs and had even bought houses and cars.

"In any era, employees have to make use of what they have, learn to be humble and know how to yield when necessary," said Lan, who lives in Thanh Cong Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi.

But Linh has never accepted her mother’s view.

In Linh’s opinion, the two different generations have different ways of seeing things. Young people today need to rely on their abilities and not "live with" what she calls "resigned endurance." She wants to do what she likes because, as the common catch phrase goes, "you only live once" (AKA "YOLO").

When the conflict reached its climax, Linh left for her friend's house and did not answer her mother's phone calls.

Mai Linh at a museum in Hanoi at the end of 2023. Photo courtesy of Linh

Mai Linh at a museum in Hanoi at the end of 2023. Photo courtesy of Linh

Having conducted research on youth culture for several years, Dr. Vu Thu Huong, a former lecturer at the Hanoi University of Education, said that people like Linh are now called the "snowflake generation."

The concept has been defined in the Oxford Dictionary since at least 2018, referring to people who are sensitive, vulnerable, and easily agitated by other people's objections while having no means to defend themselves.

Dinh Trong, a 35-year-old director of a private enterprise in northern Thai Binh Province, also often worries about what he calls his younger brother's "fragile mindset."

The youngest sibling in the family, Tuan Hung, has been pampered since he was young, according to Trong.

Therefore, said his older brother, even though Hung is a third-year university student, he is often afraid of failure and cannot accept low scores, and he also becomes easily irritated when faced with opposing views.

"The two of us were born and bred from the same family and the same educational environment, but my brother’s tolerance for society is much different from that of my generation. They are more fragile and vulnerable," Trong said. No one in the family dares speak harshly anymore for fear that that Hung could react badly.

As to why many young people today are considered fragile and weak, Huong said it is largely based on the beliefs imposed on children by their parents, who want their kids to become "stronger versions" of themselves.

"Parents always compare their children with other people's kids, wanting them to follow the old tradition of having a stable job, high salary, and early marriage. Therefore, when their children deviate from that path, parents think that they are weak, not capable, and lacking willpower," Huong said.

Another reason, according to Huong, is that many people tend to pamper their children too much, catering to all their children's needs but not teaching them how to achieve their desires, causing a dependent mentality in children.

However, young people today are also under more pressure than previous generations. This comes either from their families or from having to suffer many consequences from economic, political, and social problems such as inflation, epidemics, high unemployment rates and fierce competition. This causes stress and fatigue, which easily creates psychological instability in young people.

Agreeing with the above opinion, monk Thich Tue Nguyen, who has a lot of contact with the younger generation through healing practices at Sui Pagoda, Gia Lam District, Hanoi, said other reasons for negative perceptions of the "snowflake generation" come from within each different individual.

"Born in a period of transition between old and new, tradition and modernity, as well as access to many different cultures, it is difficult for young people to decide on their direction. From there, a tendency to express themselves is formed, challenging the limits of old views of life," the monk said.

He added that instead of being oriented by adults on the moral foundation of "learn manners first, then learn literature" like previous generations, today's youth depend more on personal emotions, not caring about old beliefs or values. They are thus much less influenced by family or school, he said.

"New cultures and ideas always need time to experience and adapt to fit traditional culture. Meanwhile, young people are too quick to approach them even though they do not have enough experience to cope with stress, so they easily blame others and blame their sad fate," said Tue Nguyen.

Experts warn that leaving generational conflicts unresolved is risky and could lead to broken familial bonds. If young people are not understood, shared with and shown direction, they can easily develop stress, depression, and even self-harm tendencies, according to Nguyen.

Dr. Tran Thi Hong Thu, Deputy Director and Head of Clinical Department of Hanoi's Mai Huong Daytime Psychiatric Hospital, said that in recent years, the rate of people undergoing examinations for mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders and depression has increased by about 20%, and the age of patients coming for examination have tended to decrease.

Most cases often face pressure at school or work, and they also have set high life goals that are difficult and anxiety-inducing. Many are also "forced" to get married or start a family early by heir parents, according to Thu.

To avoid the above situation, expert Vu Thu Huong advises different generations to confront their differences by engaging in dialogue. Parents should not impose their ideas on their children, while still providing guidance and respecting their decisions. On the other hand, young people need to actively exchange opposing viewpoints, state their opinions and be willing to accept conflicts while still clearly expressing themselves.

"Every dissenting opinion will have controversy, but after that debate, parents can understand their child's thoughts and aspirations, and from there come up with appropriate measures to change. Otherwise, it goes without saying that young people will develop measures of resistance, such as running away and leaving the family," Huong warned.

In addition, monk Thich Tue Nguyen advised young people that when conflicts arise, they should find ways to resolve and cope with tensions such as participating in volunteer activities, or cultural and artistic activities, to "relieve their spirit." When you know how to face reality and look at life more positively, pressure will also disappear, he said.

Tired of his parents' impositions, Van Lam, 22 years old, from Lang Son Province in the far north, chose to participate in volunteer courses to increase his self-confidence and interact with many people. As he witnessed firsthand other people’s difficult circumstances, the young man became more grateful and appreciative for his.

"I gradually realized that the fatigue I have to face is nothing compared to others. Once my perception changes in a positive direction, life will be happier," Lam said.

* The names of some characters have been changed

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