Modern dating needs more social skills

Lack of attention to social skills will have ramifications down the road.

I’m worried about young people. From recent indications it appears social skills have vanished.

“I was texting this guy I just met,” Makayla said recently. “Then he sent me a picture of himself naked.”

I would love to say I was surprised, but I wasn’t. When I was still teaching high school, my students sometimes admitted that they too had received and/or sent naked pictures of themselves to others online. No matter how often I cautioned them about the pitfalls of this process, it didn’t seem to matter.

“When your boyfriend swears he won’t pass those photos around to his friends, he’s lying.” I’d look around the room and could see the girls didn’t believe me. “Those pictures can stay online forever. How will you feel twenty years from now if your kids find them?”

Crickets.

“And, if you’re over 18 and still have pictures like that on your phone and the person in the pictures is underage, that’s child porn. That’s a lifetime sentence of having to register as a sex offender.”

Giggles.

“When you’re out in the workplace, what you post is important, because your employers will be taking a close look at your social media sites. If you’re dancing on a bar knocking back a shot or sucking on a joint, you might not keep your job.”

“That’s not fair!” a student would usually call out.

I’d shrug. “Life’s not fair and never will be. You’ll lose your job, but they won’t tell you why.”

Even when young people meet in person, they are often more absorbed in their phones than in those who are with them.

While I can’t blame the predilection to share unsavory images entirely on cellphones themselves, the devices with their cameras and continual presence make young people more inclined to slip into bad habits, and this is where the lack of social skills comes in. People 30 and under have grown up with a cellphone in their hands and their eyes on the screen. The average American spends almost five-and-a-half hours on the phone everyday. The device is their best friend, a machine without which they can’t seem to function. Its constant presence means they can easily ignore those around them. (If you don’t believe me, the next time you go out to dinner, peruse the room and count the people who are more interested in the folks who are not with them than those who are.)

The big  problem is children—with their heads down, buried in a screen—are not learning how to talk to one another in person. They often don’t make eye contact and lack basic conversational skills, aptitudes many of us learned in elementary school. Also, because they generally don’t see the person with whom they’re corresponding, they often miss important body-language cues.

I’ll pick on the boys here, even though girls are equally guilty. We have young men—who once upon a time might have asked a girl on a date so they could get to know one another better—sending dick pics as an opening salvo in a relationship. While they idea is astounding to most of us, I sense these young men think what they’re doing is a perfectly acceptable way to get a girl to go out with them.

Without attention to social skills there won’t be a lot of happy endings.

Clearly, there is a serious disconnect when it comes to communication today, something I blame on cellphones, digital media, and the rush to make all students submit to careers in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math.

Note that as a former communications teacher, I am, of course, biased. Before my classes and a host of other soft-skills courses were abandoned for technology programs, I worked hard to teach my students how to function in a face-to-face world: How to introduce themselves and shake hands. How to “interview” others so they could get to know them better. How to listen and think before speaking. How to stand in front of a crowd and tell a story. How to read body language. How to work as part of a team.

Now, many people are muddling through their lives without even basic communications skills. They take phone calls during job interviews. Cry when mildly disciplined. Ignore the feelings of those around them. Show neither sympathy nor empathy. And lack the skills needed to participate in a productive in-person conversation. The ramifications are missed opportunities, unnecessary conflict, job losses, misunderstandings, and, ultimately, loneliness.

I turned to my 20-year-old. “When you meet someone new, how would you like them to treat you?” I asked.

Makayla considered the question. “I want them to try to actually get to know me,” she said. “I want them to ask me questions. I want them to be interested in me and not my body.”

Exactly!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

A nightmare over numbers

The monsters in my nightmares are a clock and a cellphone.

For most of my life, I’ve had the same recurring nightmare. I need to get somewhere quickly, but I can’t. I’m saddled with too many things to carry. I can’t remember exactly where my destination is. I can’t read the written directions. I’ve forgotten where I left my car. I lost my wallet and have no money or credit cards or identification. I have no clothes.

No one will help me.

These dreams are endless and exhausting, occurring in different locales worldwide. People I know appear then disappear. Strangers are kind for a few moments, then vanish into the crowd. The whole time the clock is ticking. I must get to the airport, class, game, theater on time, but something always holds me back.

Which brings me to my aversion to cellphones. (Stay with me.)  I acquired my very first mobile phone at the ripe old age of 65, because it’s almost impossible to function today without one. In case you’re wondering, it was probably 20 years of teaching in a high school classroom— begging my students to, Please, put the phones down!—that precipitated my loathing of cellphones.

And now I have a new reason to dislike the tiny computers, a real-world disturbing twist. In my most recent I’m-late-and-can’t-get-where-I need-to-go dream, I realized my cellphone was missing. This was the first time the wee gadget has wormed its way into my psyche. There I was in dreamland, this time facing a blackout and a hurricane—I could see waves crashing over the mountains in Arizona, and, no, LSD was not involved—and all I wanted to do was call my sweetie pie to come get me.

I used to know dozens of phone numbers by heart. Now the only one I know is my own.

But…I couldn’t remember his phone number. Now, I ask you older folks, back when you were a kid, how many phone numbers were crammed into your skull? You knew every one of your friends phone numbers by heart, as well as scores of others, am I right? Now…how many do you know today, besides your own?

See the problem?

It’s that contacts button that screws us up, never requiring us to remember phone numbers. When I awoke with a start from my dream, I realized I’d never even tried to remember my sweetie pie’s cellphone number. I’ll defend myself here a little. I’m dyslexic and have always been especially bad with numbers, so punching that contacts button seemed like a process invented especially for me. Then again, the idea of being unable to contact my loved ones—nope, I don’t even know my kids’ numbers—is scary.

I must do better. I need to start memorizing those numbers. But I don’t seem to ever get to it. A true conundrum.

Whenever I usually wake from those nightmares, my logical brain tells me to not be silly. In real life, I’d seek help from a police officer or other helpful type. But surely, they would ask me to contact my loved ones and sans my cellphone that wouldn’t happen.

What’s a girl to do?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

A lesson about flounder puberty

I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, a TV show that explored the animal world. (And now you know how old I am.) I mention this because I continue to be amazed by the strangeness and beauty of the animal world. Take the peacock flounder for example, one of my all-time favorite creatures to meet when I’m scuba diving.

Peacock flounder are lovely creatures that work very hard at growing up.

As cooks might know, flounders are flat fish with eyes that tend to point in different directions. But did you ever wonder how they became flat? It might surprise you to know that flounders are born just like most other fish, but when they hit fishy puberty, they flop over on one side. This can be rather problematic at first, since that means one of their poor little eyes is now facing down. But no worries. The brilliant flounder can make its bottom eye crawl around its head where it ends up next to the other eye. As I mentioned earlier, the eye positioning is not perfect, which gives the wee guy a bit of an off-kilter look. Still, they adjust and eventually the teenage flounder starts swimming sideways.

Why, you ask? It’s an evolutionary thing. Flounder figured out that it’s easier to hide from predators if they can lie flat on the bottom of the sea. Blending in is important in their watery world, which brings me back to the peacock flounder. These guys have magnificent turquoise spots and purple edges when they’re swimming, but as soon as they alight on something, they change color to blend in, just like their land cousin the chameleon. Isn’t that cool?

Magically, the peacock flounder can turn colors instantly to blend in with its surroundings.

I often thought of the flounder in my high school classroom, where the changes associated with human puberty sometimes popped up in conversation. I realized it was a tough time in the lives of the young people I taught, something we adults understand as we all somehow survived that often tumultuous life change.

Whenever students seemed overwhelmed, I would tell them the story of flounder puberty. I hoped it might make them understand that things could be worse. I mean, imagine if your eye had to crawl to the other side of your head.

Often, the tale elicited a shocked silence, as they tried to wrap their heads around a sideways-swimming fish with a migrating eye. While I thought it was a perfect teachable moment, I sensed the kids just thought me strange.

But we teachers hold on to the hope that maybe, someday, our charges will understand our reasoning, an a-ha moment that will make them remember what we said and why.

In the case of the flounder, said messages would be change is a part of life, we need to monitor and adjust as we go, and that, in regard to puberty, things could have been so much worse.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb