This article is to give a shout out to all the employees, the world over who always have an ear and a smile. Those workers, in any job outlet, from retail workers, to wait staff, to professors, to teachers and more; the people who spend all day giving customer service to the fun customers and the not so fun customers. We are the people who might indirectly be saving the world.
So many times, I have watched parents with their tone of voice and body language shut down the interaction between themselves and an employee, with their children right in front of them! After you spend all day complaining to your child that they need more social interaction and need to shut off their cell phones, you are going to complain when they want to talk to someone in real life?
Part of the problem is, in my opinion that when we say, “Put that phone down!” what we really mean is, I want your childhood to be exactly like mine. We want to share those memories that we have of our youth with our children instead of making new memories. My wife can remember playing capture the flag at night with a whole neighborhood of kids. I can remember playing cops and robbers with my friends. But that isn’t the experience of today, unfortunately these seem like special occasion experiences now.
Children now connect via social media and while we don’t need to accept them being glued to their phones we do need to realize that this has an affect on superficial relationships, like the cashier at your grocery store or the retail worker in your shops. Us, older people have a problem with pleasant small talk because our parents taught us that “those people” are salesmen who want to swindle you. Millennials and younger people don’t understand this behavior. They are seeking to speak with “those people”. Remember: Your kids aren’t connecting with their friends like we used to.
These behaviors might be directly related to the amount of depression and suicides in young people today. If your child is on their phone constantly, they are almost certainly experiencing some form of negativity. This could be one or two nasty comments or a litany of nasty comments. It could even be not having enough engagement on their posts. Us, older generations, shrug this off as who cares? That’s not real life but it is for your child. When they turn away from the stresses of social media and what they feel is a rejection, they seek the real world experiences of superficial relationships.
The retail worker that smiles at your child and talks about makeup techniques with her for a half hour might just be saving her from the despair of suicide. The comic book clerk who debates your son over Marvel versus DC might just be saving him from plot he already thought out. This seems very extreme, doesn’t it? But social media produces extreme thoughts, behaviors and actions with very real life consequences.
All that I ask is that all us “really old people” make the effort to converse pleasantly with everyone you come in contact with. Don’t give your children those mixed signals. When you take them out, let they speak and interact with people, not alone because you’re there too, but with your supervision let them experience life outside of the phone. It may be their saving grace.
Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation.” He can be reached via his website at luiscalmeida.info.)