From driving a stick shift to interpersonal communication, the millennial generation seems to be a turning point towards automated “efficiencies” thanks to the advent of new technologies. In our generation alone, we saw a shift from Walkmans to Discmans to iPods, and now even iPods have become just as archaic as pagers. And so many other oddities of our generation have gone away with the times.
Believe me, I had my day of playing Snake on my pop’s palm pilot and mastering the art of rewinding the unwound cassette tape of my favorite mix tapes while crying. But I believe this goes far beyond tamagotchis and palm pilots. The way technology has changed our lives is systemic. It has changed not only how we entertain ourselves and interact with others, it has changed the way we live.
Let’s hear from some of our fellow gold millennials (and fans!). I asked what skills they felt they had to develop growing up that now have no place in our world. Here is what they had to say…
Losing Our Conversation
“Conversations with our voice! Phone etiquette and introductions! I remember a lot of phone information – like long distance costs – and special codes for long distance.. we needed to keep those talks short and call at cheaper times (late night and Sunday).
Research with actual books and magazines – using libraries more often. If I say microfiche and card catalog I am going too far back!”
– Mary, high school library staff member and mother of two millennials
Mary’s insight takes us back to a day when we said, “Hello, this is Stacy with Gold Millennial. I’m calling to set up a time to connect with you to discuss a potential collaboration between our business.” Rather than having everything for a Zoom conference set up days before via email and noted in Slack and auto-inputted into our Google calendar. We “pick up the phone” aka answer the video call. And then what do we say? “Hey.”? “Let’s talk about the thing.”?
Any sort of written message takes value away from communication because it takes voice away from the conversation. As much as I am infatuated with the beauty of our language written on a page, even I will admit that there is so much that can be said with a voice that cannot be said with a written word. So much can be misinterpreted or even flat out misunderstood when a conversation lacks intonation and body language.
Losing Our Selves
I remember long distance calls, but boy was that a blast from the past. It is so easy to forget, and to take it for granted that we can Skype and Zoom and Marco Polo and WhatsApp and WeChat and Facebook and FaceTime all over the world now for free. 8 years ago we may have been heading into a dark age of communication via text and typed messages, but video calling has changed all of that. In the past 8 years we have come a loooong way.
Back in 2010 as far as I know we only had Skype. Now we have so many more avenues for real time connection. It has taken back the power of people to connect face-to-face, and made the world a much more connected place. In fact, I have a theory that the whole “collective consciousness” phenomenon is simply a product of the connectedness of our global society, thanks to social media and free, easily accessible wireless communications.
Think about it. Before the Internet became a place where 80% of the world basically lives 80% of our lives, we simply did not have access to the ideas and information we have access to now. It’s like we literally got plugged in to a global collective consciousness that didn’t even exist until we all came together online and inadvertently made it.
Losing Our Time
Ok you got me, I made up those stats. But here’s the reality. In 2016 CNN reported that “Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time” so “out of 168 hours in a week, we spend more than 50 with devices.” That means that if the average adult is working 40 hours per week, sleeping 50 hours per week, and taking care of bodily needs for a mere 3 hours per week, we are spending nearly ALL of our leftover hours online or in front of the boob tube. And that was 2 years ago.
According to this more recent Pew Research study from 2018, 26% of American adults now report that they go online “almost constantly,” and the percentage increases significantly amongst 18-29 year olds, moving up to 39%. Americans aged 30-49 are not far behind at 36%. This puts gold millennials somewhere along the lines of 37% almost constantly online. Percentages are higher for college-educated suburban and urban city dwellers than they are for their less educated and rural counterparts.
Personally, this changes the way I view a lot of the new age spiritual theories there are floating around out there about how a new era is coming and the emerging collective consciousness is proof. Well, you could call it a new era. You could call it an awakening of humanity. Or you could just call it technology.
Losing Our Minds
“I purposely practice anticipation. That is a feeling that has erased from our generation (the smartphone gen) and that is forgotten to those after us. I try not to Google everything, knowing that the feeling sits with me as the “Oh! The name is on the tip of my tongue but I dont have it yet…it will come to me later” remains present. If I resort to using Google, then I’m not actively using my brain. There is a whole neuroscience to it!”
-Britta, Reiki Master and Founder of Sacred Space Reiki & Lightworker’s Sanctuary
Ah, and aren’t we the smartphone gen, if there ever was one. We are a generation marked by technology and social media because we are the generation that had to adapt to it. We had to learn how to live life with it without any precedent or training. Without any statistics or articles to tell us how the rest of the world was choosing to live.
Britta makes a point that I think we all overlook. The ease of access to an almost infinite depth of knowledge literally at our fingertips can put our own cognitive thinking on hold. It is too easy to grab our phones for the answer before we even think about what it could be for ourselves. A study called “Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity” found that “cognitive capacity was significantly reduced whenever a smartphone is within reach, even when the phone is off.”
Very Well Mind tackled this subject in a recent article published just this past August. So many of us now rely on our phones for everything. From small things like memorizing all those important phone numbers and addresses we used to know by heart and reminding us to take the trash out every Thursday, to bigger things like Googling the best way to start a conversation with a neighbor.
It is clear that we are doing our brains a disservice. When we Google for help remembering, or help with our intimate lives, we are taking away our own analytical power and placing it into the hands of a mechanical brain. In the end, the consensus is that we just don’t know yet, but modern research is pointing towards a correlation “between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence.”
At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before machines take over the world. By the way I’m only being about 50% sarcastic.
We may be able to video call our grandmother in Russia now at the drop of a hat, but what about the other shoe? Perhaps it is only a matter of time before we lose our ability to anticipate, and google when the other damn thing is going to drop in the milliseconds before it makes a sound. Or perhaps our “collective consciousness” will “wake up” to a shared recognition and pitch a last-ditch effort to save our collective brains.
Finding Our Own Answers
Our generation has lost more than the obsolete technology of yesteryear. We have, quite literally, lost our minds. We have lost the skill of memorizing our best friend’s address and our brother’s phone number. We have lost the art of conversation and analytical thought. We have lost much, but I believe that somewhere in the mire of the collective consciousness, there is a Lost & Found where we may find redemption.
We never lose something on purpose. We lose our coats and our wallets and our dogs and our kids and even our precious smart phones all the damn time. When we lose something, there is a moment when we realize we’ve lost it. We turn around, and we go back to retrieve it.
Our creativity can be retrieved. Interpersonal communication can be learned and taught again. I personally believe that already since about 2014, face-to-face video chatting has become more popular than chatting behind the anonymity of a screen name. Our ability to think deeply and figure out our own shit can be restored. I don’t believe it is lost forever. It has only fallen by the wayside of Wikipedia and Candy Crush. C’mon collective consciousness. Let’s get it back, together.
What skills that you felt you had to develop in your younger years now feel obsolete? What skills do you feel we’ve lost as a generation that need to be regained?