Communication in the 21st Century; Or "How We Actually Still Talk to Each Other, Despite What the Boomers Believe"
We are now knee-deep into the 21st century. Technology advances faster than we can learn to use it. Amidst all of this, the previous generations of the human species, primarily what are known as the "Baby Boomers", express a distinct tone of frustration with the so-called "lack of communication" from the Millennials. A strong fallacy exists stating that the young adults of today no longer know how to speak to other human beings because of the technology. This rose tinted glasses view of the past that claims people "really talked to one other", that gets regurgitated again and again, has a horrid tendency to be taken as an unbreakable truth rather than a sad attempt at resistance to change. With a given model of how communication works, and applying it to today, we can clearly see that this could not be further from reality.
The Shannon-Weaver model of communication, also known as the Transmission model, explains that communication can be understood as a Sender transmits a Message via a Mode that is then Translated or Interpreted by a Receiver. Numerous models of communication expand on this, but we'll work with just the one model for the sake of keeping things simple. Let's now break down the Transmission Model to help better understand what it means.
The Sender, in simple terms, is understood as the person with something to say. So we'll say it's you, the reader, for our example. You are looking to reach a friend (The Receiver), to make plans later in the week. The Message: you are looking to make plans later in the week. Mode answers the "how" in the equation, whether by phone call, face to face, text, e-mail, or however else you might relay your message to your friend. Translation comes once the message has arrived, and the Receiver uses their eyes and/or ears to interpret the message. Once the Receiver has received and interpreted your message, they will then start the process over by switching roles with you, and transmit their own message in response.
"Well, that's fine and dandy," you say, "But what does that have to do with these kids today, always looking down at their phones, who don't even know how to talk to one another! Why, back in my day..." Let's stop you right there, and get started on relating the transmission model to modern day, 21st century communication. In spite of an irrational fear of change, the world continues to evolve, as do the ways the people within it communicate. The mode might change, but the means for a sender to get a message to a receiver remains as strong as ever.With this understanding of the transmission model, we can connect this to even modern forms of communication, regardless of how one might feel about texting, email, or even social media.
Your average Millennial might appear to have zero communication skills, who you see as "always looking at their phone"; but what you're not seeing is a Sender communicating a message through texts, through emails, and through social media; while also a receiver through all those modes. And though they might not always want to express their ability to speak verbally, this trait has not been forgotten, nor abandoned.
Millennials still enjoy the company of close friends, drinking in bars, and other acts of recreational communication. If anything, Millennials never seem to stop communicating. Whether face to face, or FaceTime, or Facebook; the current generation of humanity struggles to cut themselves off from transmitting and receiving messages from wherever they can get it from; friends, family, or even complete strangers on the Internet. What they really need to learn to do is how to take a break from being ever constantly connected and communicating. That it's okay to have quiet, "you" time. But that's a different topic all together.
So why does the stigma exist then? Perhaps a fear of change; a refusal from old dogs to learn new tricks, and a collective resentment of today's youth for leaping at the challenge of learning any new tech they can get their hands on. Perhaps a sense of dread as technological Darwinism looms over them in the same fashion as Death.
The only thing stopping you from technologically evolving with the rest of the human race stands in a mirror. Numerous amounts of your generation have already "gotten with the times", so to speak. Stop associating your ability to learn with your age. Albert Einstein once said "Once you stop learning, you start dying." In other words, just because one grows old, does not mean one need to hurry themselves to the grave, and give up on joining the current world. Computers and other technologies no longer require you to go to MIT; even a small child can figure it out, since it's all practically plug and play these days. Take the time, and learn.
So what can we take from all of this? In the 21st century, communication stands very much alive and well. But we are at a strange crossroads, between the older generation who refuse to evolve, and the current generation who actually need not learn to talk more, but rather talk less. The task of finding balance challenges the human race as a whole. We're discarding tech we only learned 10 years ago so we can get our hands on the latest and greatest, only to rapidly evolve through different generations of the same phone or the same operating system at the rate of once a year.
Which, to a generation that saw essentially one new piece of tech every decade, can be daunting and discouraging to learn. But honestly, don't try to keep up with the Joneses. Take whatever is current, and just be comfortable using that. Can't figure something out? Learn. Don't call your grandkids to come over and "make it work". Hop online and watch a tutorial video.
At the rate technological-driven communication evolves, what will be the breaking point? In another 10 years? 20? Will we evolve so fast, even the Millennials will give up? Who can say with any certainty. In the end, we can only watch and wait.
< back to writing