It was a sad sight at a recent social gathering. A bunch of kids sat in a room in utter silence except for the sound of the TV. While half of them watched the movie with bored expressions (they had problem seen already it) some dropped off to sleep and the others were immersed in their phones furiously texting as though their lives depended on it. The lack of any verbal conversation made me uncomfortable. I stress on ‘verbal’ because I later heard that two or three of them were ‘texting’ each other. That made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. They sat merely two feet from one another and didn’t feel the need to talk. It was odd but only to baby boomers or Gen X I’m told. The technology savvy young ones informed me that there are many ways to communicate, unfortunately for the most part they are non-verbal. What happens when you go to job interviews I asked my boys… and was met with the usual glares to be read as “don’t start that again!”
Poor conversational and networking skills
Later that night I asked my sons about the other kids in the room and shoulders shrugged in response. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that you could spend around three hours with a bunch of people and not know anything about them, not even a name. Their defense was that nobody was in a talking mood and they didn’t think it was a big deal. That’s a big “F” in interpersonal skills and networking I thought to myself. Perhaps we should have a video game on how to introduce yourself and that might get their attention. I almost said that out aloud but refrained knowing fully well it would degenerate into the usual lecture about being able to strike a conversation and engage people.
I thought back to the time when I was their age and accompanied my family to similar social gatherings. It was a different time and experience. I realized we didn’t have the electronics to lose ourselves in (a good thing) and were forced to make conversation. We’d share jokes, play verbal games (or cards if available), make new friends and generally have a great time. As one friend remarked it probably helped us develop our verbal and social skills with people of all ages. If you’ve ever met kids who mumble, don’t meet your eye or shuffle their feet when talking to you, then you know what I mean.
The Internet and social media has isolated people from the live world and that is both worrisome and detrimental to their development. Even those who post their every thought and move on social media are tongue tied in a live setting. Communications at home are virtually at a standstill let alone in a public setting. I’ve come across parents who text their kids to come down for dinner. How ridiculous is that?
Texting sounds the death knell for written communication
A recent study on how informal email ids can affect your interview prospects brought the poor writing skills of this Internet generation into sharp focus. Funny names are one thing texting short forms being reproduced in email communication and misspelt words is another. I can’t imagine any employer making allowances for that.
In fact texting has ruined both written and verbal communications. Many would rather communicate via text because it involves less time and effort (no details required). In spite of its emoticons and LOLs it has also taken the emotion out of communicating and encourages ambiguity. In addition to all this it promotes distraction. People can be seen texting at professional and social events which is rude to say the least. Ironic that these same individuals would proudly proclaim that they will take no calls during this time.
Impact on health and development
Lack of personal contact and verbal communication has a definite impact on both mental and physical health. A preference for communicating via electronic devices rather than face-to-face is simply not right and has been known to lead to isolation and depression in some cases. In fact many developmental psychologists are concerned about its impact on young people. As one CNN report pointed out adults who switched to electronic communications in their later years are of less concern because they had already developed these important interpersonal skills. Children on the other hand are being robbed of the opportunity and are becoming “conversation-phobic”.
Now this phenomenon should certainly have parents thinking more seriously about offering these devices to really young kids as well as setting boundaries for the older ones. No doubt it’s a convenient way to keep the little ones quiet and the older ones at home but at what cost. Many a times they are holed up in their rooms and up to no good on the Internet behind closed doors
Technology is great as a tool to make life simpler. The problem is when it becomes your addiction or a cover to hide from any real communication. It’s also easier to get into serious trouble with.