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!

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8 thoughts on “Modern dating needs more social skills

  1. sharonledwith says:

    Great post, and so true, Anne! Trying to wrap my head around what kind of world the next generation are entering. Call my old-fashion, but I love getting to know others face-to-face with no phones attached. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tidalscribe.com says:

    This was all true before we had a pandemic and now isolation and lockdowns have prevented real life contact. But teenagers have been so happy to go back to school and see their friends, perhaps there will be a positive effect as they appreciate talking and being with real people.

    Like

  3. Richard Conine says:

    Anne its Rich Conine from Connecticut reaching out to you. Tried a few months ago to get a hold of you. Anyway hope all is well. 203-258-3492. Do you talk with Mayday at all. i know you are both out in the Arizona area. Stay well Rich

    Like

  4. annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

    Maybe you’re right, TS. I’d certainly like to think they’d take more joy in being together after being locked up for so long. We’ll see. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mighty Life Blogger says:

    Thank you for sharing and I absolutely agree too much time on the phone and not enough time talking face to face…I watch my 8 year old daughter playing sometimes even though she drives me insane talking to all my mops and brooms and breaking them with her imaginative playing I am glad for she is out in the garden playing and enjoying nature rather than nose deep watching her phone/tablet. We as parents need to teach our little ones that phone time is not all the time. Think if we instil this in them when they young we could possibly ensure that when they older they know how to balance phone time and people time. Sometimes rules are important, dinner time sitting at a table, helping mom with the dishes, sitting in a restaurant and talking to each other no phones, I think if we as parents lead by example we may be pleasantly surprised at the results, after all how did our parents do it :-). Enjoyed this most gave me lots to think about and again thank you for sharing

    Like

    • annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

      You are quite welcome, MLB, and right on target. The problem, of course, is that the people who’ve grown up with phones are now having children and see nothing wrong with handing the little ones digital media when they’re still toddlers. Eieee!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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