I am uneasy when I encounter the lack of basic-level skills in those from the generation(s) that follow mine, those who will set the tone for, and become responsible for, the future of American life, politics, history, etc. Although my observations may be more relevant in Southern California, I see some frightening trends regarding an inability to communicate at a basic level --- if you’ve read my other blog posts, you’ve seen me document this trend with specific examples (and, hopefully, with humor).
It’s not that I am saying ‘my generation’ is better at communicating than any other… after all, we brought you the phrases ‘Let it all hang out,’ and ‘Whatever.’ But I do remember that, in my grammar school years, the art of communication was blended in with our other studies. We were taught how to answer a phone correctly (these days, some people don’t even murmur ‘Good-bye’ before hanging up in your ear); learning how to give simple directions (I have met numerous store clerks who are unable to describe where to find something, so instead they escort me to it); and the very delicate art of knowing when you may have said too much (I can verify it takes years to learn this one).
The younger generation(s) of today seem to be on the horns of a dilemma --- they have access to more information and technology than my generation dreamed of, but there don’t seem to be many protocols in place regarding how to use the information and how to discern when enough is enough and too much is too much.
At times, it seem that technology controls them, rather than the other way around --- using technology to manage/ organize their lives.
I recently posted an item for sale on Craig’s List, and had more contact from the Buyer than I have on a weekly basis with my BFFs, and the constant contact just about drove me up a wall. She continually e-mailed, called or texted to: get directions, confirm directions, change direction, change the time, change the date… all over a $30 purchase. She was unable to keep track of our communications, so if she e-mailed me a question and I e-mailed her back, she would forget where the question and information were stored and would call or text me wondering why she didn’t hear from me.
When she bought the product, I was so happy to know that I wouldn’t be hearing from her again, until… she asked me if I had the CD-ROM that went with it. Unfortunately, I DID have it, but not with me, so the routine continued for another week-and-a-half of over-connectedness and missed appointments.
I tried to organize her by letting her know that I would be at a specific location during a specific time frame on a specific date --- I don’t know, that just seemed logical to me. Still, she called or texted me 4-5 times that day to confirm/ re-confirm/ double-confirm… only to text me at the end of the day that her plans had changed and she couldn’t show up. The constant interruptions during my day --- responding to her phone calls and text messages --- was annoying. By now I was getting so much contact from her that I felt like I was being e-stalked!
(I know, if you’re “over-29” like I am, you’re probably asking, “Why didn’t you just mail it to her?” I made that suggestion several times, but for whatever reason she did not want me to know her address.)
Twice, I gave her detailed directions on how to find me, then she called or texted to ask me how to get there (I was at an intersection of two well-known streets). It became apparent that this poor gal had absolutely no sense of how to organize her thought process or any of her electronic communication tools. I wanted to scream every time I saw her phone number pop up.
When we finally connected and I placed the CD-ROM in her hand, I internally breathed a sigh of relief… perhaps I would finally be able to disengage from this short, intense, mundane relationship. But that was not to be. Within 20 minutes of leaving me, a text message appeared: ‘I am so cold right now…’ I didn’t answer back, as I wondered how long it would take her to realize she had not texted her husband.
© Elena E. Smith, 2011