Don’t be such a snowflake 不要过分敏感


Reader question:

Please explain "snowflake" in this sentence: "Since when have you been so sensitive? Don't be such a snowflake, okay?"

My comments:

After two days of continuous snow, a rarity in Beijing, I find it quite apropos to answer a question about snowflakes.

A snowflake is a flake or piece of snow. if you observe closely, all snowflakes are six-fold and symmetrical in form but each flake is unique. In other words, they are all different from each other.

Snowflakes are also feathery and light, plus easy to melt - that is, as temperatures rise.

Hence, when referring to persons, snowflakes are mostly young people who are tender and sensitive, idealistic creatures who are not yet hardened by, say, facts of life - I mean, the cold, hard facts of life.

In our example, the speaker is discussing something with his or her companion when suddenly, the companion becomes irritated or offended by, say, something the speaker or someone else says. So the speaker asks the companion not to be so sensitive.

Perhaps the speaker is suggesting that they should not be so naive, that it's time to grow up, that they should be more accommodating if they are to advance in the real world.

Anyways, snowflakes are mostly young people who share some of the same qualities with real snowflakes, delicate and light, unique and special and politically correct, very correct, but able to melt or break easily.

That is to say, they get upset easily and are unable to cope with even the smallest difficulties when things don't go their way.

Here are media examples to further illustrate the point:

1. More than 100,000 women and men of all ages and professions came together in the Boston Common for the Women’s March on Boston, the second largest after Washington D.C. itself. Standing among them, I felt a great sense of hope and inspiration. I only knew one of those faces around me, but I felt connected to every one of them. A women’s choir harmonized a version of “America the Beautiful” in which "brotherhood" was replaced by "sisterhood," showing that the smallest of changes can make the biggest of differences. For me, it was one of the rare times in my life, likely even rarer for a woman of color, that I knew myself to be strong, powerful, beautiful and have complete confidence in myself as a female. It seemed like we were carrying on the traditions of the women’s suffrage movement and engaging with a past that the men in charge in D.C. seem to have forgotten: the strength and pull of assembled women.

While speakers ranging from Elizabeth Warren and Marty Walsh to average Bostonian women and poets took the stage, I looked around me at the knitted pussy hats, the signs for all kinds of social movements and female faces looking ready to fight. Speakers gave us messages to hold onto, “this day is about unity and solidarity,” “this democracy is only as strong as we are engaged,” and “freedom is our agenda.” My personal favorites that still echo in my ears days after are “Democracy does not stop at the ballot box because dissent is patriotic” and “I have a message for Donald Trump from the people of the state of Massachusetts: we’ll see you in court.”


There were so many people there that day, that we did not even all get a chance to march. It was one of the best problems to have, really. The main event organizer admitted sheepishly that she had hoped for 25,000 at most, a goal far surpassed days before the event. Despite that, I could see helicopters hovering around us. I could see news vans and reporters. We were sending a message, with or without a formal march, along with many other cities across America. We are here. We are not standing down. We will fight.

We are snowflakes, as Trump supporters say, but made of iron. We’re all different, but we move together. We know that when one of us falls, we all fall. Snowflakes are the best metaphor for this movement, one that unites people of all kinds, even though it was given quite unintentionally. Those who oppose us I would challenge to continue calling us names and trying to minimize our power. We will take it and turn it into something beautiful and strong. We will continue to move forward and protect one another through these four years, building bridges instead of walls. Because that is who America is and should be.

- We Are Snowflakes, by Emily Klingbeil,, January 26, 2017.

2. Even though it's the middle of summer, there's an awful lot of talk about snowflakes. This is the "it" insult that's caused a blizzard on the political landscape.

The dig in its current use stems from the '90s book and movie "Fight Club," in which the narrator informs his listeners, "You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake."

Some started calling today's youth "Generation Snowflake," bemoaning their perceived hyper-sensitivity. And then "snowflake" became a word-weapon to express a broad kind of anti-intellectualism aimed at campuses and communities where cultural sensitivity is a must.

Cut to the 2016 election, when "snowflake" emerged as the knee-jerk conservative gibe to shut down political opponents, especially during debates around tolerance.

More recently, some liberals have taken up the snowball fight by calling out the current president for being a thin-skinned, self-perceived victim.

- Who's the snowflake? A chilly riposte to political insults,, July 9, 2017.

3. Across the country, college classes are well underway, the excitement of the start of the year is waning and student stress is on the rise. Frantic calls home and panicked visits to student health services will start to dramatically increase. And before long, parents and observers will start wondering what is wrong with these kids. Why can’t they handle the pressures of college and just pull it together?

College student stress is nothing new. Anxieties over homesickness, social pressures, challenging course loads and more have been a common feature of the U.S. college experience for decades. But, without question, student stress levels and psychological distress are measurably worse than before. According to a national study published earlier this year in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, major depression among young adults (18-25) rose 63 percent between 2009 and 2017. They also report that the rate of young adults with suicidal thoughts or other suicide-related outcomes increased 47 percent from 2008 to 2017.

It used to be that we thought of millennials (aged 22-37) as the stressed-out generation, but it looks like Gen Z adults (18-21) are faring even worse. A new study by the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that Gen Z outpaces all older generations in stress, with 9 in 10 Gen Zs between the ages of 18 and 21 reporting stress in the last month compared to around 75 percent of their elders.

As with millennials, the common practice has been to describe these stressed-out kids as snowflakes who have been ruined by helicopter parents, smartphones, and an outrageous sense of entitlement. The fix, as this logic goes, is for these kids to just suck it up, grow thicker skin and stop whining all the time.

This attitude, of course, is super convenient for older generations who don’t want to take seriously the idea that they may bear some responsibility for the stressful environment facing young college kids, one where their futures feel precarious and pressured. It is much easier to think that the problem is them, not the system they live in.

But that thinking is not just wrong-headed; it is exactly what contributes to exacerbating college kid stress.

So, what are the top stressors for college kids?

- Why are college students so stressed out? It's not because they're "snowflakes",, September 15, 2019.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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