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“Connectivity” – A Public Conversation

February 9, 2012

Reader James Dineen yesterday wondered “how relationships start with this group [Millennials].”

I posed this question to two girls in their mid-20s that sat across from me at the coffee shop this afternoon. Their answers were surprising, not least because they were initially open to chatting with a stranger about something so out of left field (which already contradicts my thesis that people of my generation are far less open socially; but perhaps I was just lucky, especially since both girls agreed with my suggestion that people from my generation are more socially awkward).

One of the girls said that “connectivity” has never been higher. I asked her to elaborate, to define what she meant by “connectivity.” She said that, for her, “connectivity” means being “wired in.” When I asked her why young people always needed to be “wired in,” she said that it stemmed from a need to feel “with it.” What does this mean? This means being aware of trends, your friends’ activities, culture, news, sports, essentially everything. She went on to say something very interesting: “We’re “connected” but we’re not connected.” While we are “wired in,” we’re not socially and emotionally connected to one another.

Here were some other thoughts they shared with me:

  • Using Facebook too much makes people unhappy. They want to be connected to their friends, but Facebook only makes them feel more disconnected, as they should be out engaging with the world around them.
  • Texting dominates. Both girls prefer texting to phone conversations.
  • Calls themselves are weird, if not slightly awkward. I asked the girl who said this if this was because of a general fear of picking up the phone and calling someone (particularly cold calling), but she said that she just preferred face-to-face conversations and found phone calls unnatural.
  • Conversations with strangers don’t happen; most people of our generation are not open to random conversations (like the one we were having, and enjoying – these girls could’ve left or gone back to their own conversation at any time).

The dominant theme of our conversation was that young people want to make personal connections, but for whatever reason, they (we?) just aren’t.

This doesn’t provide the kind of answer that James is looking for, but it’s a start. I’ll try and have more of these conversations as the weeks and months go by.

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