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“Look at me when I’m speaking to you!” How many times have you heard your parents yell those words at you in frustration? Well it’s for a reason; they’re finding themselves agitated as I am, with the fact that our new generation can’t hold eye contact, and communication is disintegrating because of it.
The amount of times I have spoken to someone and his or her gaze is at the floor or just drifting off is troubling. According to Communication Consultant Dr. Audrey Nelson, “Eye contact is the strongest form of nonverbal communication” (Nelson); so then why is it, that our newest generation is having more difficulty looking at you in the eyes and speaking to you than any of our generations before? Is it a lack of interest in the conversation, or have we been hindered by social media and the use of technology that we cannot handle a simple face-to-face conversation. Our inability to commit to a conversation shows lack of respect and is breaking down the relationships we try so hard to build up.
How can one know that they’re being spoken to if eye contact is not present? The sender of a message must look at the person he’s talking to in order to assure that the listener is paying attention, understanding him, and listening. Our students don’t even look at the teachers anymore when they teach; the connection that shows you have their attention isn’t there. Our gaze is directed at the ceiling, at the floor, everything other than another human beings eyes.
It may be that some people don’t care, but I beg to differ. The simple reason why we can’t look someone in the eyes more recently is because of lack confidence and lack of social skills. In today’s era we are enabled by the fact that we can rely on other devices to communicate; through phones or computers, we never have to look at the person while we speak to them. When put in real life situations we simply do not know how to be socially acceptable.
Yesterday I approached someone in the hallway, it was only us, because it was during class and we were just passing by. After seeing me from approximately 100 feet away they put their head down and didn’t look up until we were far past each other. I’m not asking for a five-minute conversation, I’m not even asking for a conversation at all; but I don’t think a smile or simple hello would hurt anyone. It’d take about 15 seconds at maximum and probably make yours and the other person’s day a little bit better. Boys, how do you expect to get a girl when you can’t look her in the eyes? I guarantee she’s not going to appreciate you looking at other body parts. Give yourself a chance with the girl you like and look at her; see her emotions and how she feels, make that little connection that will count the most in the end.
In a survey of 3,461 girls ages 8-12 in America it was found that “young girls who spend a disproportionate amount of time using these devices will later struggle to develop normal social tendencies” (Birch). I urge the teens and young adults of America to get their faces out from behind your masks of technology and actually go and speak to someone. I assure you if we continue on this way communication is going to break down completely.
Please, don’t fear. Every generation starts out this way, there’s still hope for us, we just need to work on it. Next time you talk to someone, make eye contact. And hold it. If a person is having trouble with this address it, don’t just let it slide; no progress is ever made by letting things stay the same. I’m not saying to stare the person down and make them feel uncomfortable, just make them feel like you’re actually listening to them and engaged in the conversation.
What it comes down to is that communication is being corroded by our failure to look people in the eyes and give them the attention they need. The new generation needs to be taught to keep eye contact when they’re speaking and vise versa. Technology and social media don’t need to hinder us, we just have to fight against it and stare it straight down.
Birch, B. A. "Education News." Education News Students Social Skills Hindered by
Digital Multitasking Comments. N.p., 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.
Nelson, Ph. D Audrey. "The Politics of Eye Contact: A Gender
Perspective." Psychology Today. N.p., 15 Sept. 2010. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.