At the risk of sounding old school and not very hip, I really am concerned about my fellow GenXers and those that are trailing us, for many reasons but at the top of my list is an increasing lack of civility. Just look at how people have been treated on airplanes the last few weeks if you have any doubt that there is serious reason for concern. Here are 3 of the main factors that I see leading to this seriously unhealthy social behavior:
1. Lack of sharing– When I was growing up, I had to share one landline telephone at home, one tv, and one bathroom. Even when I went off to a posh boarding school, I still had to share these things with others, and as a result I was very mindful of other’s need to use these same resources, and I had to learn to compromise early on, which requires developing good communication skills– both expressing your needs and listening to others. But now, everyone has their own smartphone and no one compromises on what to watch or listen to for entertainment, and as a result we are all practicing less and less the art of compromise and communication.
2. Instant Gratification– Technology has advanced to such a point that information really is instant. No one waits for the mail or newspaper delivery anymore, in fact, most don’t even bother with full sentences to communicate ideas or desires. It’s all about sending immediate messages, emojis or images that are supposed to convey all our thoughts. If someone breaks up with you or bails on plans at the last minute, no problem just hop on a dating app or social media and find the next party with just one swipe without even giving yourself a nano-second to process any feelings of disappointment or loss. God forbid you should take a precious second to feel some pain or discomfort as part of the normal human condition.
3. No effort needed– At first glance, we can all appreciate the time-saving products invented to reduce our work load– including the dishwasher, microwave, washer, dryer, pre-packaged food, etc. But what are we doing with all that extra time? Are you (a) making an effort to help others around you (like a child, elderly parent or neighbor), (b) working out more to stay healthy, or (c) at least expanding your knowledge by tapping into other people’s minds reading their works? Or are you just kicking back waiting for the world to entertain you? Sadly, it seems most are choosing the latter option.
Despite the fact that “sharing is caring” is still a widely used catch phrase, the true meaning behind it seems to have gotten lost on most long ago. Certainly the old adage “patience is a virtue” seems to have escaped an entire generation’s vocabulary, and I’m afraid more and more people believe that hard work actually doesn’t pay off, so why bother? To further add to all this, no one wants to say “I’m sorry” anymore and instead somehow we have replaced it with the stupid term “my bad” to which the automatic response now is “no worries.” WTF?
It is especially heart-breaking as a parent these days to see all these trends and wonder how will I teach my child not to be a jerk when part of our every day vocabulary concerning relationships now includes terms like “ghosting,” “bread crumbing” and “cushioning”? We are all guilty at some point of avoiding difficult conversations and instead relying on modern technology to just de-friend each other with one click and block unwanted calls. But where is that leading us to? A complete lack of civility, as demonstrated each and every day on the news, due to an inability to manage uncomfortable feelings and unmet expectations.
I don’t mean to be all doom in gloom, because the reality is I still do encounter incredibly patient, caring, hard-working parents every day, and it is an honor to work with them. But we are at a cross-roads here, either we acknowledge the dangers we have created for our kids and teach them not to be complete hedonists that only seek pleasure and avoid pain, or we accept as the new norm the increasingly uncivil behavior we see each day including in our schools, work, at home on the news, and even on board our planes.
The right choice is rarely the easy choice.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.