Communication breakdown


The “degenerates” of the tech age, whose supposed bad manners are the hallmark of their generation, are noticing the poor social skills of their parents — and they are calling them on it.

When I go out to dinner with my girlfriend, my phone stays in my pocket. Why? Because face-to-face conversation is more important and more entertaining than Twitter or Facebook. Words on a screen can wait, because I have a real person in front of me.

According to a 2011 Pew Research Center study, the percentage of American adults who downloaded an application to their phone rose from 22 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2011.

This boost in usage is telling of how increased preoccupation with cell phones translates to a decrease in social courtesy.

The average 50-something has evolved from the old guy holding his Nokia Brick at arm’s distance, squinting and pounding keys with his index finger, to a near-mirror image of the 20-something archetype — walking down the street, head down, eyes glued to a screen.

I work as a server at a local restaurant, and the other night I served a man who typified this. Not once did he make eye contact with me. He ordered his drink and his meal without so much as a glance in my direction, obviously preoccupied with throwing birds at pigs while his teenage son sat across the table, awkwardly looking at his father and then at me, then back to him.

You thought that was awkward for you, kid? Try serving him.

His son was clearly embarrassed, but what could he do? This social role reversal finds parents and their kids — and sometimes restaurant employees — at odds. As younger generations become more socially conscious, their parents and grandparents revert to infantile attention spans.

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Common courtesy gets thrown out the takeout entrance when you can tweet about your dinner.
“@agenericburgerjoint #gettingfat?” How about “@badmanners #putthephonedownandpayattentiontoyourfamily?” Trust me, your server and your kids will appreciate the fact that you decided to join them for the evening.

As a 21-year-old, I’ve watched the baby boomer generation integrate themselves with new technology and social media, and it’s scary. Not because they’re “trying to be hip,” but because the majority of them sacrifice common courtesy for Facebook and Fruit Ninja.

As a society, we are inundated with social media and texts and news constantly.

We can’t turn it off, so we eventually succumb to it. Can’t we take an hour every evening to put the texts and appointments and status updates on hold?

If not for our own sake, at least for that of the people we interact with on a daily basis.

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