Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Look Down Generation

The Look Down Generation. It’s what people are calling the young people today, but really it spans several generations as more and more people grab hold of technology and all of its gadgets. You see, it has nothing to do with low self-esteem or a bad case of shyness. It has everything to do with the smart phone or iPad that seems to be glued to everyone’s fingers. Their neck is bent at a 45 degree angle as they stare at the screen catching up on Facebook or crushing candy. They rarely look up.

Furthermore, it doesn’t matter where they are or even what they are doing. They could be riding in a car full of people or even driving, sitting at a dinner table whether at home or in a restaurant, or just walking along the sidewalk, destination in mind, but the journey ignored. The contraption is in their hands and their fingers are pressing keys frantically.

And they’re missing the beauty of life all around them. This morning Char and I drove over the causeway from the beach to the mainland. Off to our right we were able to admire several dolphins as they frolicked in the Indian River. The majority of people would have missed this beautiful sight because their noses would be bent down at their phones and, to be honest, it wouldn’t matter if they were the driver or the passenger. When we take the interstate home from a day at Disney, there are deer all along the road. Again, most people will miss the opportunity to see them. There are poles and lights along the street to keep people from stepping out into moving traffic, but again, most people fail to notice them because they fail to look up. Well, okay, that last one is funny. Deadly, but funny.

I’ve shared my rants in the past about technology and how it may cause people to be in touch with the world, but out of touch with what is going on around them. The loudest criticism against the Look Down Generation is their poor social skills. They have a hard time making eye contact because they tend to forget people actually do have eyes–or even faces for that matter. They find it perfectly acceptable to carry on a conversation with someone beside them while their head never bends upward to look at them. You see it in restaurants and coffee shops, where instead of engaging with the people around them they’re lost in the world of social media. Instead of interacting with people, they can’t set the technology aside even for the duration of a meal.

This turns out to be a hindrance as they grow older. While they may be great for the computer job they are applying for, they will never get it because they don’t know how to properly conduct themselves during an interview. I’ve had hiring managers tell me stories about applicants answering their cell phones during an interview. People simply do not know how to behave anymore.

What is even sadder is that we have spent decades convincing people to take pride in themselves and to Look Up, hold their head high. Then we create a device that tricks them into keeping their head down. They know what a picture of a sunrise looks like, but won’t put the phone down long enough to actually witness one.

We’re even handing them this technology at a younger age. While you may think you are giving them a jump start on those who may not be able to purchase these devices for their children, in reality you are stunting their growth in so many crucial areas. Limit the time they can carry their devices. Force them to look up and actually see the roses everyone says they should take the time to smell. Teach them to communicate with their voice and not just a keyboard. You’d actually be the parent giving them the head start over those who have every new gadget thrown at them. Your children will be the well-rounded generation that remembers to look both ways before crossing the street.

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