Is technology making it more difficult for people to interact in “real life”?
In the age of social media and texting, how do these things affect our ability to communicate effectively with other humans?
I often notice how the older generations seem to have a much easier time making small talk, or simply interacting with people face to face. They always seem to know exactly what to say, and most importantly, they seem comfortable in those situations.
Have you watched a teenager trying to interact with an older person lately? It’s almost painful to watch. Teenagers seem to become more awkward as time goes by.
But it’s not just them. Most millennials seem to have a hard time interacting with people face to face. Expect long periods of silence, feelings of anxiety and people saying weird things (like asking how you are after you already told them).
It’s easy to see why this is happening. When someone sends me a text, I have enough time to think about something clever to write back. Sometimes I will change my mind mid-sentence and start the message over. Other times I will let the text I received sit unanswered for a while until I find the perfect emoji to send back (or until I’m in a better mood to communicate).
Needless to say, that’s not how real life works. When someone talks to you face to face, you have to come up with something smart, funny or empathetic to say right away. That’s not an easy task when most of your communication is now done via technology.
I was born in the late 1980s, and so even though I didn’t grow up with all the technology that is available today, I still feel that my social skills have progressively worsened.
This became clear to me after I spent a year working from home. Being “out in the world” again was a bit overwhelming. I was actually surprised by how you can lose your social skills if they remain unused for a long time.
So I can only imagine what it must be like to be a teenager today. After all, they grew up with this technology – it’s an intrinsic part of how they’ve always related to the world. I wonder what kind of impact this will have on their ability to communicate in the workplace once they graduate.
I also wonder how face-to-face interactions will look like in the future. Will people just stand awkwardly next to each other with their eyes glued to their phones? (I’m pretty sure this is already the case in Japan, and in most high schools).
Maybe social skills training will be part of every school curriculum in the future. Maybe social skills will become one of the most valued aptitudes in the job market.