Younger people joke about their unsociable habits all the time. Memes circulate often with stuff like: “Before you call me, ask yourself, is this textable?” or Me whenever I make a phone call: “Please don’t answer/pick up.”
Older generations are quick to blame every ill on our phones, including our lack of proper, real life social skills. But social media doesn’t necessarily cause our aversion to face-to-face communication. After all, some people are by nature introverted or simply have a shy disposition. What social media and accompanying technologies do is make it easier for us to avoid interaction.
We can replace a phone call with a text, an email or a message. We can bank, shop and order food online or through a mobile app. We can even request quiet Uber trips now so that your driver doesn’t talk to you.
Human interactions can be awkward, messy and complex. But with technology we don’t have to make conversation, maintain eye contact, read body language or social cues, make emotional connections, negotiate, collaborate, compromise or express our thoughts and feelings.
Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of problems for young people. These include the depression that can come from being so alone, the stress and anxiety that can come with having to deal with the real world without the required social skills to do so and the challenge of having to get jobs without the kind of work skills that employers so often look for in applicants.
Getting better at and becoming more comfortable with social interaction takes time and practice. There is no easy fix. Not even on the internet. We actually have to experience it for ourselves. We have to engage socially at some level to begin to learn. Luckily, the first step is the hardest and everything usually gets easier after we find the courage to simply try for the first time. Strike up a conversation with a stranger or call someone rather than text them. You might enjoy the result.
The truth is that if we want to have any kind of meaningful, healthy, effective personal and work relationships, we’re going to have to get out into the real world, face that messiness and develop our soft skills.