Talking 20s: Digitally Savvy, Socially Challenged …
I’m a cord-cutting, iPhone yielding, Snapchat-obsessed, multitasking, texting-and-driving twentysomething- year old. And I’m all for millennial rights; but I absolutely draw the line at the alarming decline of our communication and social skills. It’s very unsettling that I could have an in-depth conversation with someone, via Twitter, over the course of two weeks; where we discuss everything from political views to pop culture; but when we see each other in person … nothing …nada… radio silence …. crickets …
The irony of this generation is that the more technologically advanced and “social media-savvy” we get, the more interpersonally challenged and socially handicapped we become. These days being “social” means to chat with your family on Facebook; stalk your foes on Twitter; track your friends on Snapchat; and exhibit yourself on Instagram. Even the concept of attending a social function is thoroughly contaminated by social media. First, you absolutely MUST post a pic of your fabulous outfit and flawless makeup. Then, you HAVE to capture everything on Snapchat: the pregame shots of Hennessy, the car ride to Future, the turn up with the crowd, and don’t forget the timestamp of you getting home at 4 AM. Finally, no experience is complete without the morning, recap tweet about how great last night was. But how much of that time was actually spent interacting with the people at the function? Aside from your Snapchat story, which will disappear in 24 hours, did you leave with any significant or everlasting memories? And if so, could you verbally articulate those memories to me in a way that makes me feel like I was there? Probably not!
Don’t even get me starting on the visceral rejection of meaningful, personal conversations. Nowadays even the most important topics and news is delivered via text: breakups, family deaths, STD results, marriage proposals, eviction notices, coming out, you name it. So where do we draw the line? At what point do you consider it appropriate to actually call someone and have a conversation? Or, if you’re feeling really audacious, dare you discuss such sensitive subjects… FACE –TO –FACE?
This generation’s over textualization (a word that I made up) is stripping millennials of basic communication skills like active listening, body language, eye contact and other nonverbal cues. Tone and voice inflection fall on deaf ears because texting doesn’t require any of that. Not to mention, many millennials are generally uncomfortable with in-person interaction.
Computer monitors and cell phone screens have acted as accomplices in the desocialization of human interaction. You can disseminate whatever kind of information, to whomever you want, from behind a screen. You can be as aggressive and hateful or as intelligent and insightful as you want. You can present the best or worst version of yourself. You can edit, proofread and delete as you see fit. You can avoid touchy subjects or be a big bad wolf and no one can stop you. However, all that changes when you have to face someone. There’s no editing or deleting and it’s certainly more difficult to blow someone’s house down when they’re standing right in front of you.
Millennials literally use cell phones as a crutch in social situations. The first sign of awkward silence, confrontation, tension, uneasiness and we’re reaching for our phones: just for comfort, just because it makes us feel better to have it close. You absolutely must check your inbox and refresh your timeline because, God forbid something interesting happened in the 43 seconds since you last checked. I bet you could hold your breath longer than you could maintain a conversation without checking your phone.
Our dependence on technology is crippling. We don’t even memorize phone numbers anymore because 1.) the cloud never loses anything and 2.) who calls people these day? I have to confess that if I ever got arrested, I’d use my one phone call to dial 9-1-1 because that’s the only number I know by heart:
Operator: “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”
Me: “Yeah, uhm I’m at central booking and I can’t reach my mom. Could you message her on Facebook and let her know that I’m here?”
The disconcerting reality is that I can reach my friends faster on Twitter than I can on the telephone. The days of 3-way phone calls are behind us and have since been replaced by screen shots and group texts. Dating is a nightmare, so if you don’t have unlimited data and text, then you’re shit out of luck. And if you want to spend some quality time with your friends, you’d better download GroupMe.