People think Generation Y is rude and self-absorbed, says Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein in The Wall Street Journal, but it turns out twenty-somethings are just illiterate in the nonverbal language that "much of our social and workplace lives runs on." To them, thanks to iPhones and Facebook, "reading a text message in the middle of a conversation isn't a lapse...it's what you do." Silicon Valley companies have started banning digital tools at meetings to combat the problem of “continuous partial attention,” but the loss of “Silent Language” is already well advanced and it’s unclear what the larger ramifications will be. Here's an excerpt:
“We live in a culture where young people—outfitted with iPhone and laptop and devoting hours every evening from age 10 onward to messaging of one kind and another—are ever less likely to develop the "silent fluency" that comes from face-to-face interaction. It is a skill that we all must learn, in actual social settings, from people (often older) who are adept in the idiom. As text-centered messaging increases, such occasions diminish. The digital natives improve their adroitness at the keyboard, but when it comes to their capacity to "read" the behavior of others, they are all thumbs.
"Nobody knows the extent of the problem. It is too early to assess the effect of digital habits, and the tools change so quickly that research can't keep up with them...."