Why the Rise of “Snowflakes” is a Silicon Valley Story

Jumana Abu-Ghazaleh
11 min readFeb 9, 2022
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Death: The Final Stage of Growth

When I hear people complain about “snowflakes,” the three traits I hear most consistently described are as follows:

  1. They are open about avoiding threats to their sense of well-being, particularly when they have reason to believe it will be endangered.
  2. They are unafraid to engage in exuberant self-expression.
  3. They are willing to show sensitivity.

Why would someone take on these traits?

And why are these traits being vilified in the first place?

Older people bemoaning that the younger generations simply don’t get it is, of course, not new — it is thousands of years old, and those older people were in turn bemoaned by their elders. Nothing surprising there. But there is one aspect of this particular manifestation of the phenomenon that is novel: “the problem with kids today” that we’re used to hearing is that young people “just don’t care enough” — not that they care too much. What gives?

A Near-Decade of “Snowflake” Discourse

We’re now the better part of a decade away from “snowflake generation” being designated as one of the Collins English Dictionary’s 2016 words of the year — and the term has only continually gained usage in the years since.

In the earliest stages of the 2020 election, the Trump re-election campaign was sending its email subscribers to a ‘Snowflake Victory’ website, where they could receive the talking points needed to “crush” their anti-Trump relatives in heated debate. Whenever you’re reading…

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Jumana Abu-Ghazaleh

Founder @ Pivot For Humanity. Published in Fast Company, OneZero, IEEE Technology + Society. Board member. Palestinian. Start with empathy, always.