Recently I had the chance to work with a great group of millennials. Smart, focused, disciplined, fun to be with, millennials. Over the course of our weeks together our conversations afforded me a glimpse into the world through their lens. My 20/30 something lens did not have the despair in its view theirs has. Terrorism was an abstract idea as was to large extent global warming, water was potable. Politicians exchanged ideas in heated rhetoric but it was done, certainly by comparison, in an air of civility. The news was…well, the news.
Considering the fractured nature of what we’re handing off to them I found their optimism impressive and their entrepreneurial moxie inspiring. All of them for instance had managed to successfully monetize their social media accounts. They exposed me to the invisible network of 24/7, accessible commerce right above our heads. Selfies in other words will likely translate into becoming their pensions. Who knew? Apparently I, unlike them, have been living under a rock.
All this self generated industry ofcourse meant that each of them spent a healthy percentage of their days in virtual space. As much as I admire (hell, envy!) their business savvy, I could not help but witness what to my mind were a series of small tears in the fabric of the collective weave. At the very moment in our work place for instance when my life rhythm would say to turn to your co-worker and chat about the news, a joke, a film…they would turn to their cell phones to snap a pic, send an instagram or snapchat. Not sure I can quantify what was lost in those moments but certainly eye contact, an exchange of body language, a visceral dealing with immediate human interaction. Virtual space has the illusion of connectivity but its actually an incredibly lonely place and because the only one you interact with in the moment is yourself, its accidental by product is narcissism. Human tactile-ness if that can be a word, is marooned. What, I wonder, is happening to the psyche when those tears happen? What is happening to their spirits when a next friend or date is chosen through a cute photo on a cell screen? Just as surely as there are incredible gains in efficiency, astonishing gains in social barriers being dropped…there are losses too.
I’m committed to learning more about the rapids of virtual space. I am however going to make a conscious effort before I forget how to, of reading nuance in body language as best I can, of noting the timbre in a human voice. I’m also going to make a special point of looking friends and strangers in the eye. See you there.