by Patricia Siswandjo on

“Go big or go home,” texted one of my best friends, regarding her stance on environmentalism. Her belief: small changes like going vegetarian or eschewing plastic is too small in scale to make an actual difference, so she doesn’t bother.

Annoyed, I responded with, “That’s stupid. You might as well say, I’m not successful right now, so I shall not go to work at all.”

While it’s understandable if you do not want to overestimate your ability to help or change the world, does it have to mean that you don’t try at all?

Language, lexicon and slang evolve over time and shape the way we think. Millennial lingo is usually all fun and games, but what if, in shaping the way we think, it makes us less willing to try, more prone to social anxiety, more accepting of cyberbullying, or less inclined to take social action?

To stop that happening, here’s some millennial lingo, and tips on when not to live by it.

Go big or go home (but don’t end up going nowhere)

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Sometimes interpreted as, “if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all”. Many link this closely to the millennial fear of failure.

I understand my friend’s point of view: with 93 million tonnes of waste generated a year in East and Central Asia, how can one measly plastic bag, which weighs 5.5 grams, make any difference?

But, many popular green movements today such as the growing vegan movement or the rise of minimalist living started with the individual. It takes considerable time for fringe movements to go mainstream, but when they do, they can put pressure on mega-conglomerates to catch up.

For example, hotels in Singapore and the United States have pledged to minimise single-use plastics such as straws and bottles.

Believe that you can change the world, even if you know it can’t be done overnight.

You only live once (but live it right, and once is all you’ll need)

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Next, the reason you partake in risky and daring experiences, like travelling alone to a foreign country, or going sky-diving – because you only live once (YOLO).

The YOLO movement is fine because we should enjoy, in moderation, the time we have now.

In the past few years, however, this has evolved. Because you only live once, the fear of missing out (FOMO) compels you to attend every event or party. When synced with the proliferation of mobile devices and FOMO, there can be unhealthy consequences, such as social anxiety and feeling left out.

Good old Dr Google diagnoses those glued to their phones, inhaling every tweet and Insta-story, and who constantly compare themselves with who they follow, with social media envy.

One of my Instagram-obsessed friends says: “I see my friend meeting her boyfriend for a sushi date again, while I’m just alone at home. Then I wonder why her life is so much more exciting than mine.” Similarly, many teens report increased levels of social anxiety due to “missing out”.

A tip: just remember that you are comparing your behind-the-scenes struggle with your friend’s highlights reel.

It’s just roasting (but it’s still bullying when inappropriate)

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Roasting is the art form of insulting people, usually your friends, over the Internet. On video-sharing platform YouTube, the practice of harshly mocking or criticising another channel’s content is considered roasting.

One subreddit on social media platform Reddit, with over 800,000 subscribers, is dedicated to these roasts. Users submit their photographs and other netizens leave witty, mean-spirited comments that usually focus on physical appearance.

However, roasting promotes an environment which rewards the meanest comments. Furthermore, roasts that are mean-spirited can quickly evolve into cyber bullying or trolling.

While roasts on Reddit are consensual (users have to submit photographs of themselves holding a card that reads ‘c/RoastMe’, and verify their account), that isn’t always the case on other platforms.

As Good Morning America reported in 2016, more teens are being exposed to online harassment and cyberbullying on private messaging apps.

Similarly, “firing a shot” is when someone says something that’s bound to offend another person. The comment isn’t nice, so it’s like a verbal bullet. One might laugh and say, “shots fired!” when it’s clear that some drama – which is considered entertaining to those watching – is about to unfold.

Downplaying mean comments by labelling it a joke, roast or a shot fired is never nice.

I’m woke (but am I really doing enough?)

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Do you retweet posts for a social cause, but have yet to donate a single cent to movements or organisations in support of said cause?

This is something I’m sure many of us (me included!) are guilty of: staying woke, yet doing little to help the causes we promote.

Woke – an adjective that describes a person as someone who is politically active and aware of contentious social issues, such as feminism, racial tensions, and the impact of socioeconomic disparity on minorities.

However, critics have suggested that some of those who brand themselves as woke are sometimes more interested in making a statement on social media than actually engaging in real-life activism.

Hopefully, the #MeToo movement and others like it will soon turn thought into action. Get involved, and not just via a hashtag. If you have time, volunteer. Or, put your money where your mouth is and start donating regularly to or volunteering with the charities you support on social media. Stay woke, fam.

So there you have it. Expressions in the millennial lingo, and why you shouldn’t live by them, in case they ruin your life. (Like how millennials have purportedly ruined casual dining chains and the napkin industry.) Because you don’t want your lingo to make you believe you need to give up completely, cause you crippling social anxiety, get you branded a cyberbully or believe you can spend your entire existence riding on hashtags without actually doing anything worthwhile.