The other day I watched a video someone posted on Facebook about the challenges facing so-called Millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 according to the Pew Research Center. The sociologist in the video talked about the challenges facing people of that generation largely stemming from parental and societal mores that existed at the time. You know, everybody’s special, elimination of winners and losers, participation trophies, etc. But I found the most interesting observations about which he spoke were connected to the challenges brought about by technology — primarily smart phones.
Smart phones are awesome. The ability to be connected to information at the drop of a hat never fails to fill me with awe. But even in my relatively technology-less life, I get frustrated at the people around me and their dependence on their cell phones or iPads. I will often pose a rhetorical question to Bill, for example, and before I know it, he’s looking it up on his phone. I don’t really want to know the answer, I’ll scream silently to myself. Sometimes I simply want to wonder about something.
The sociologist went on to talk about the new behavior at business meetings where all of the attendees enter the room carrying their smart phones. Each person sits down and begins immediately looking down at their phones, checking Facebook or Instagram or their text messages. They sit in that manner until the meeting starts, and then likely have their phones on their laps lest they miss an essential tweet. The conversations that used to take place among fellow employees while they wait for a meeting to start — Hey Jessica, how is your mom doing? Is she still in the hospital? or Did your grandkid ever hear back from Podunk University? Did they make the cut? — no longer take place. Instead, we only know what our coworker had for drinks and dinner the night before because the photos are posted on Instagram……
Back in my employment days, one of my jobs was to write and send out press releases on a regular basis. Because I had no administrative support, I was also responsible for inserting the press releases into envelopes, slapping on labels, and sealing the envelopes — 350 or so almost every week. It would have been an overwhelming job, but it wasn’t. Here’s why: the morning of a day in which I would be sending out a press release, I would walk around the office and let people know that I would be at the big conference table around 3, and invite anyone who had time to join me and help with the project.
At 3 o’clock, there were invariably four or five or six people gathered around the conference table working on what could have been a tedious job. The worker bees might be directors, administrative staff, or maintenance folks. We would talk about our families. We would discuss what we were all making for dinner that night. We would commiserate about politics — both “Big P” and “little p” politics. We critiqued movies and television programs. Sometimes, if the project fell on a Friday, we may even carry our discussion later to a nearby bar to solve the world’s problems over a martini.
And there wasn’t a cell phone in sight. I wonder if anything like that would happen in today’s work force?