In the world of generational categories, I fall in the sociological grouping called Generation X. It’s the generation that spans from the early 1960′s to the early 1980′s right after the Baby Boomer generation. Known to be uniquely characterized by independence and self-sufficiency, it seems to be a favorable thing to have just made the cut, into Generation X. This is so, not only because independence and self-sufficiency are good qualities (they can be poor qualities more than we realize), but because the next generation, the Millennials are a grouping with which I’d not like to be associated. The Millennials, people who are roughly born between 1982 and 1999, are characterized, particularly in the workplace, by having problems with personal interaction and conflict resolution. Rex Huppke gives a conversational anecdote of the said characteristics of the Millennials in the Chicago Tribute article “Millennials struggle with confrontation at work“:
Gravett said that in a recent focus group with 10 millennials, the subjects said they prefer to text someone they’re having a problem with rather than speak by phone or face to face.
“I asked them why they won’t just talk to someone over coffee or something,” she said. “And they said, ‘Oh, that’s too personal.’”
Another millennial told Gravett that the boss had yelled at him. She asked whether the boss raised his voice. The millennial said, “No.”
She asked whether the boss used profanity. The millennial said, “No.”
“So I said, ‘Explain to me what yelling at you means,’ and the young man said, ‘Well, he was really firm and he disagreed with me.’ He took that as being yelled at.”
Oh boy. If having someone disagree with you is akin to yelling, your work life is going to be deafening.
Unfortunately for the average Millennial, this problem with personal interaction and conflict resolution does not seem to only remain in the professional realm but also affects them in the social world. Alex Williams writes in a NY Times article titled, “The End of Courtship?” about how the social media and online dating sites have turned the new generation into people who are novices at face-to-face interaction.
Relationship experts point to technology as another factor in the upending of dating culture.
Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of “asynchronous communication,” as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.
“I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out,” said Anna Goldfarb, 34, an author and blogger in Moorestown, N.J. A typical, annoying query is the last-minute: “Is anything fun going on tonight?” More annoying still are the men who simply ping, “Hey” or “ ’sup.”
Williams appropriately quotes Andrea Lavinthal in identifying us as “all [having] Ph.D.’s in Internet stalking these days.” But is it really merely the fact that the Millennials have replaced the skill of personal interaction for expertise in navigating cyberspace that has led to this so-called death of dating? Possibly, if we are speaking of surface level influences. A look deep enough at the phenomenon of the ‘death of dating’ should actually quite naturally lead to the following questions: Was our idea of dating correct to begin with? What are we trying to recover? Or moreover, why are we so averse to confrontation?
The answer? I am unsure. It would be presumptuous of me to claim to know this answer to the problems of the non-confrontational Millennials and the end of courting, but it would be unhelpful to just remain silent on the issue, not to mention, I would be acting non-confrontational. A suggestion that could be made is to begin to think of our cultural problems not in terms of technology or dating, but in terms of the notion of ‘autonomy’, which lies deeper than technological circumstances (Possibly a residual effect of the independence and self-sufficiency of Generation X). Non-confrontation go hand in hand with the popular idea of tolerance in that they both tout individualism over and against any sense of dependence. The overemphasis of individualism causes any conflicts or even minor disagreements to seem like attacks on the independent volition of the person against whom there is a disagreement. Then we eventually end up jettisoning any ideas of persuasion and pejoratively label any act that convinces another as proselytizing. All types of discussion enter into no man’s land, and friendly debate is perceived as a war zone. No wonder a disagreement sounds like a yell.
You may not be convinced that autonomy is at the root of the problem (it may just be a part of the problem), but I do know one thing that is proven to be helpful in learning how to confront, which is bold humility. It means to begin any discussion, debate, or argument with the thought, “Maybe I am wrong.” Not in the sense of losing personal conviction or conceding to the erroneous philosophy of postmodernism, but in the sense of being open to listening. I do not know how much that would help in getting that next date with the next girl, but it will certainly lower the decibel on all voices that disagree with you and would allow for healthy confrontation. Plus, if you don’t agree, you’re probably a Millennial, not concerned about getting that next traditional date.