Though we may feel gratitude, the experience of real connection isn’t instant gratification.
Busy, busy and ultra-connected… yet some maintain both an online and personal presence, with balance. But does this matter?
As a parent of three sons of wildly varying ages (25, 22, and 11) I’ve become acutely aware just how different our children’s socialising has become over the last 20 years or so.
My Older Sons
In the decade when my older sons were growing up, they still played on the streets, meeting friends and taking reasonable ‘chances’. Video games were in the ascendancy and, twenty years ago, balance between the two began to be challenged. My older sons were not encouraged, and there was less availability, to engage online with others. True and real social interaction took place in the school, or on the streets, with some ‘stay-overs’ for good measure.
Indeed, one now lives in London; a fully grown independent man in his own right.
By comparison, my youngest is predominately a ‘homebird!’ As parents, we have perhaps become influenced via the incessant flow of negative media streaming into our homes and lives, 24/7. MY eleven-year-old and his primary social learning skills are split between online chat with friends, and his peers at school. He, too, has multiple reciprocal ‘stay-overs’ but his streetwise abilities are highly limited.
Why is this? Because he doesn’t know any different! This is what he has been, or rather hasn’t been, exposed to. In fairness, the environment has been a partial factor, as has his own relative psychological introversion. But the overriding factors are his parents! What we teach (and have taught) this eleven-year-old, he will (and has) learned as part of his own beliefs and values of the world, and his place in it.
Is this then going to be detrimental for him?
I’ve been thinking about this a great deal. Not least because, in the office, I am seeing an increasing number of kids lacking both emotional intelligence and resilience to the vicissitudes of life.
So, I started this post with the intention of looking at social-introversion by way of our increased time and exposure with the online world. But as I started to type, it became clearer that this paradigm shift, and all that entails, isn’t going to go away anytime soon!
So, here is an invitation to the acid-test!
Here are some of the issues, and observations, I’ve noticed or experienced:
- We increasingly operate from behind the smartphone, laptop, or PC. Just look at all the social comments about people no longer connecting at mealtimes and other social gatherings.
- We’re becoming less aware of our surroundings and environments – and the people in these places. This leaves us open to a lack of compassion or empathy, as well as mistaken communications, judgements and assumptions – and a loss of ‘in real life’ connection.
- We might operate on all fronts. The social butterfly is no longer constricted to attending The Ball! She can go to The Ball, take selfies, share online – and then dissect online over the coming days! If we’re lucky enough, we go to many social functions. However, we may become overwhelmed with the ‘new’ need (and desire) to update our social platforms in which we inhabit as ‘bits’ of data. Have we not become super-journalists, the world over?
We ARE social creatures by design…
But, I think we are in danger of losing the skills that have evolved over millennia; to observe, and engage, with careful (albeit subconscious) awareness of the subtle nuances of body language – the micro-expressions, the amazing ways we can choose to communicate with passion and care. To be in the presence of another – and therefore to KNOW we exist, we matter, and we perhaps have a sense of belonging and purpose – and ultimately, hope.