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Interpersonal Communication: It Matters more than you know

March 30, 2009

Generation Y will be the last of the generations that understand the true value of interpersonal communication. In this day and age, laptops are placed in front of students as early as kindergarten at many schools throughout the United States. I am 22 years old, and lucky for me, I have had the best of both worlds. Up until the around sixth grade, computers were an afterthought. Schools had a few computers in a computer lab, but what mattered most was hands on learning. Being so close to a teacher, that I was able to smell her sour breath was far from soothing. However, learning how to deal with people on a daily basis was the foundation that I was taught during my elementary schooling days.  Public speaking was emphasized as much as arithmetic and writing.  Once the end of middle school rolled around, we slowly adapted to the .com boom. The late 90s is when it really hit hard, and by the time the new millennium came around, the Y generation had a healthy balance of technology and the ability to be personable.

Moving on to generation Z, or as many like to call it, “The text generation”, our society could be on the brink of disaster. Everybody is consumed with the turmoil revolving around the downfall of our economy. As a whole, we get into the habit of ignoring major conflicts until it is too late to conquer them. Former President, Bill Clinton tried explaining to our country how vital it was to deal with terrorism. We were too caught up on whether or not he had an affair. 9/11 occurred, and terrorism is an ongoing battle to this day. The reason we are heading for the second great depression, is because paying due diligence to loaning credit to the masses was not even fathomed. Nobody stopped to think, maybe we have to take our foot off the pedal, and begin monitoring these banks more closely. I can guarantee you that Bernie Madoff’s clients wish they had more knowledge on the where abouts of their billions of dollars. 15% returns every year were too good to be true, but no questions were asked until disaster struck.

Everybody can debate on what is the biggest obstacle to overcome as a society heading forward. Terrorism, global warming, and the economy are three topics that float around in the heads of many throughout the world on a daily basis. The biggest problem that is being overlooked is interpersonal communication, or lack there of in generation Z. My brother is fifteen years old, and his interpersonal communication skills scare the shit out of me. He wasn’t playing manhunt or cops and robbers as a kid. Instead, he planted himself in front of a computer, or television for the majority of his free time.  Where does innovation come from, if a kid cannot experience real life situations?  The answer lies in the machine, technology. Students that are his age and younger, are encouraged to use laptops during class. Besides the fact that most of these kids are using these laptops for their personal enjoyment, technology has led to a medication epidemic. Attention deficit hyperactive disorder is very common throughout elementary and high school students. Ritalin is as common in kids lunchboxes as sandwiches, and the reason for this is technology.

Everything is good in moderation, and the same can be said for technology use. Regardless of how advanced it gets, there has to be a human touch factor that remains. Artificial Intelligence is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximizes its potential at success. A central property of human beings is intelligence, and the fear is that since it can be described so precisely, eventually it can be simulated by a machine. There are six traits revolving around intelligence that should be a cause of major concern when discussing Generation Z. Reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, communication, and perception are aspects that young kids have tough times coping with. Technology enables an individual to alleviate the step by step process in the maturation of these steps. Let’s take a daily personal conflict that might arise in an ordinary situation. If a thirteen year old kid misses a test because he was “sick”, how is he/she going to approach the teacher? Alarmingly, emailing is most prevalent in these situations, and texting is not that far fetched either. Emailing and texting might be time efficient in the short term, but the negative consequences down the road are immense. Perception is impossible to decipher through texting and emailing. How is one to know the true meaning of a message if it is over an email or a text? A teacher will not know the extent of the absence of a student unless he/she meets face to face. Human emotions are beginning to be suppressed due to this occurrence. Technology has led to laziness, and laziness leads to counter production. People are beginning to fear having any human contact whatsoever. Conflicts are a lot easier for people to deal with if interpersonal communication doesn’t take part.

Heading forward, education systems have to acknowledge that there needs to be a healthy balance between the two mediums. The advancement of technology has many positive underlying themes, but the bread and butter of our civilization is the ability to communicate with one another on a personal level. Rather than breaking away from this as technology moves into untested waters, let us bridge the gap, and ensure that Generation Z has the tools that are needed to ensure there is no demise. Many individuals are visual learners, so let us use the movie “I-Robot” as a perfect example of why interpersonal communication will always be vital to the survival of the human race. The movie takes place in the year 2035, and robots are commonplace, as they do all kind of service jobs for humans. To make a long story short, through the innovation and advancement of robots, humans are at the risk of being run by robots. Looking at this from an outsider perspective, what is being depicted here is the fear of the human brain not having to think for itself anymore. The point I am trying to get across is that as a race, humans have tons of potential in creating their own path. This will not be possible unless Generation Z is provided with the foundation without technology. My recommendation is having one day of the school week dedicated towards personable workshops. Negotiating, self confidence, public speaking, and dealing with personal conflicts are a few attributes that can be taught in schools. Communication classes have to be at the top of the list heading forward. If this issue isn’t addressed in the near future, there is a great chance of world destruction due to communication breakdowns throughout society.


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