Should We Get Rid of the ‘Global Citizen’ Label?

Global Citizen Pinterest

We see these words grace social media profiles and mark people as emblems of worldliness. “I am a global citizen,” they exclaim, having various countries under their belt of experience that provide them with a sense of awareness of the world. Or, at the very least, that is what would be expected of their travels.

I never thought of myself as a global citizen because I am not a citizen of the globe; I am a citizen of two countries. And when considering the concept and how it may apply to myself and others, I could not bring myself to understanding the benefits of its use. I find the word to be off-putting to be quite honest, reeking of a pompous neocolonialism that claims ownership of cultures while shallowly engaging with them.

In an age where many of us who are privileged with the means of travel share their global adventures on Instagram (which is not a bad thing by the way), the desire to escape to new places becomes even more prevalent among millennials. However, there are a number of us who have become more concerned with growing our “Countries I’ve Been To” list instead of having in-depth interactions with the citizens of those countries. We decide that the bubbles of familiarity in foreign lands are not worth popping. We decide that our comfort is not worth compromising as expats.

Global Citizen

I do believe that term “global citizen” was first created with a different idea in mind, a sense of civic duty and a keen sense of global awareness that tugs one’s heart strings such that they cannot stay silent on the issues that affect multitudes. “Global citizen” was once not a destination to be reached, but a journey to be had. But after substantial reflection on how I have seen the word used in the everyday, it seems like the original meaning has been lost for something counterfeit. And it puts those who mean the original definition when they describe themselves to be mistaken something they are not: empty caricatures of worldliness without hearts that actually beat for the world’s people.

My thoughts on the matter did not rise from thin air. I thought deeply about this word that had been mostly absent from my vocabulary after co-hosting and participating in TCKchat, a bimonthly Twitter chat that brings together third culture kids from around the globe to talk about various subjects relating to the cross-cultural experience. This week’s topic was “Global Citizenship Explored” and the thoughts expressed in the chat are very much worth reading as they provide great fodder for discussion.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post called “Labels Are Tags, Not Containers. I mention in it that there is something powerful about taking on appropriate labels with stereotypes that don’t fit you but owning the label anyway. Should we approach ‘global citizen’ the same way? Is it a phrase that needs to be salvaged or one that needs to be replaced with a new term?

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