Communication skills are going the way of the dodo

Studies show we’re losing the ability to communicate in person?

I’m worried!

There are a lot of things that have me concerned, like the usual ho-hum topics: climate change and politics, pandemics and inflation and war. But what worries me most are young people.

Why, you ask? The vast majority of them seem unable to fully communicate. And yet, studies show strangely different results on this issue.

As I usually do when confronted with a problem, I popped on my reporter’s hat to do some research. The first article that came up was from Psychology Today, a 2020 story by Dr. Marilyn Price Ph.D. who thinks young people are doing just fine, thank you very much. According to her article, a study by Douglas Downey of Ohio State University involving more than 60,000 K-8 kids between 1998 and 2010 showed that “no decline in social skills was noted by teachers or parents during this period of increased internet activity.”

As an educator of over 20 years, all I can say is color me surprised.

A short time later, I came upon a 2021 story by SWNS Media Group: Young Americans lack key social skills, avoid the phone, and fear small talk. The article was based on a survey of millennials by OnePoll, a marketing research company that specializes in online and mobile polling. The survey produced the following results:

One study shows 30% of millennials always or often feel lonely and 27% say they have no close friends. Could poor communication skills be adding to the problem?
  • 68 % of millennials admit they actively avoid talking face to face if they can
  • 40% confess that they often find themselves awkward or uncomfortable if having to make small talk.
  • 62% feel a sense of dread while speaking on the phone to clients and customers at work.
  • 80% feel they are often more vocal or able to express themselves in text or online than when they are in person.

Only 7% of millennials say they generally keep in touch with friends by talking on the phone, while just 9% communicate in person. And the vast majority claim their main form of contact with friends is on social media or via text.

While these stats are sad, they sound more realistic. But I know what you’re thinking. Why the disparity between the studies? I mulled this over for a while and then the proverbial light bulb went on. The first study was talking about children. The later discussed the grown-ups they’d become.

Clearly, then, we have a problem. In the interest of full disclosure note that I taught communication skills in high school. Then, along with a host of other classes, my program was cut to make way for all those STEM courses. Don’t get me wrong, science, technology, engineering, and math are fine subjects, but not all children are wired to succeed in STEM. And, even if they were, don’t scientists and engineers and IT people need the ability to work with others? Without solid communications skills, misunderstandings and errors are bound to occur.

Just 9% of millennials say they generally communicate with their friends in person. That leaves 91% alone.

Good communication skills can also improve one’s personal life. Being able to listen and respond clearly to another human being builds trust, nurtures mutual respect, and goes a long way toward avoiding confusion that might lead to arguments and stress.

The question is, what do we do now? An entire generation of young people has grown up communicating primarily by screen. And, if that’s not bad enough, consider that they are now raising children. What will become of the offspring of those who have eschewed social skills?

Did I mention I’m worried?

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.


Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.


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