By Maxim Lott, ,
Published May 03, 2016
The social justice warriors of American campuses would like you to hold your applause.
When a Yale student's angry meltdown at a professor went viral, viewers may have noticed the crowd gathered and some students snapping their fingers. It's the currently preferred method of showing approval in some circles, given complaints that traditional clapping can be "triggering," or even painful to hands unaccustomed to work. Although the curious digital trend is catching fire with the college crowd, it is not new or confined to the U.S.
“I see it in discussion-based classes," Brown University student Cara Dorris wrote in 2013 in her school newspaper. "When people hear an idea they agree with, they will start to snap.”
"When people hear an idea they agree with, they will start to snap.”
Tuition-paying parents may not fully appreciate the snaps of approval they earn for writing checks, but the adults of academia get it.
“I’ve made an effort to study the finger-snapping behavior, and I’ve reached an early conclusion,” Amherst Prof. Ilan Stavans, who teaches Latin American and Latino culture, wrote in a post for the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Finger-snapping is done delicately, respectfully, democratically, always in the middle of an event. Hand-clapping, which is by definition louder and more disruptive, is invariably reserved for the end."
It's not clear what it is about the sound of two hands clapping that makes the gesture so objectionable, but one clue was offered in a recent plea from across the pond.
“Can we ask people to stop clapping but do feminist jazz hands? It's triggering some peoples' anxiety?" tweeted the Oxford University Women’s Campaign in England in March. "Thank you!”
Equally unclear is just when the tradition began. Some say it started with Beatniks in the 1950s, who wished to register approval for spoken poetry without rousing sleeping neighbors. The Michigan Men’s Glee Club notes on its site that it has a tradition of snapping, and offers one possible reason that at least sounds collegiate.
“The reason behind this (as legend goes) is that you can't clap and hold a beer!" the site offers. "Another possible reason is that snapping is less disruptive than clapping during speeches and announcements.”
Alarmingly, Dorris put her finger on a major downside of snapping that may send hipster students searching for the next method to demonstrate approval: People now say things just because they get “snaps.”
“Snapping encourages us to say things that please others, not to say things that are innovative or unique, not to say things that push the boundaries or even make sense,” she wrote. “Snapping is just another feature of a culture in which we do not listen to the person who is speaking. We listen to the audience… It encourages those who have initially unpopular ideas — like this one — to keep silent,” she wrote.
FoxNews.com reached out to several social justice-oriented groups at Yale for their thoughts on the origin and meaning of finger-snapping, but did not hear back.
It is not the first time youth have sought an alternative to giving a hand. Occupy Wall Street protesters created their own alternatives to clapping, such as “twinkles” – a gesture in which a person raises both hands and wiggles their fingers in order to signal agreement.
But for the time being, the preferred method to register agreement with a college kid lamenting the latest micro-aggression appears to be simple: Just make like a one-percenter summoning a waiter.