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Hey Gen Y: Let’s talk about text

Jari Lompolo, a Finnish 20-year-old, has plenty of friends. But he rarely talks to them. Instead he types.

Jari Lompolo, a Finnish 20-year-old, has plenty of friends. But he rarely talks to them. Instead he types.

“I send about 50 text messages per day, and send Facebook messages,” he explains. “I only call them if there’s something urgent.”

You can probably relate. You have friends you text, ones you email, some you call. “New media platforms are providing greater freedom for decisions about who to converse with, what those conversations are about, where and when conversations can happen, and how to have them,” notes Gabriel Harp, research manager for Technology Horizons at the Institute for the Future.

But the migration to the keyboard poses a danger, warns Sherry Turkle, a professor of social sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Teenagers want the control that comes with texting or being able to ‘compose’ an instant message. This means that they are learning how to ‘perform’ — in a profile, as an avatar — but not (how to) respond to the give-and-take of conversation.”

The disconnect bleeds into many fields. Toronto acting coach Erynn Brook notes: “It’s extremely difficult to get younger actors to connect with their scene partners. Their ability to read subtle cues in body language and tone of voice, and to adapt to the person they’re speaking with in a scene, has taken a dive in the past eight years.”

She makes them have a real-life conversation once a day.

That’s exactly what the Occupy Wall Street protesters are doing. The movement was organized online.

But because they were aware that texting, tweeting and Facebooking are not enough, they’ve created real-life forums, called general assemblies, to discuss ideas. And of course they’re standing arm-in-arm on the streets, discussing the cause amongst themselves and to the media. What a cool idea: Maybe this conversation thing will catch on?

 
 
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