A logical report on Generation Y's declining social skills and what we can do to fix it!
|A Logic in Shadows
In the final cinematic scene between the two eternal archenemies, Robert Downing Jr's Sherlock Holmes engaged the nefarious James Moriarty (played by Jared Harris) in a climactic battle of logic and theory, hypothetically testing each other's strengths, weaknesses, and every factor that made them who they were. In this battle, the opponents took everything they knew about each other and challenged it, exploiting known emotional feelings, logic and theoretical actions, past behavior and components, and the very variables that made up their reason, deconstructing the other into the logical empirics that made them who they were and attempting to destroy it. Ever since I saw that scene, I was able to properly depict what my mind did on a daily basis, weighing the social rewards and consequences of my own actions while analyzing the crowd, my relationship to each individual, and trying to find the empirical logic that made each person tick. But after one incredibly social morning, I had determined that the mindset and analytical process that I performed and mastered almost all my life was not as rare of an ability (and inconvenience) as I had originally thought.
An interesting social predicament occurred around a month ago. There was a girl that I occasionally saw on my college campus, mostly eating alone at the dining halls or walking to/from class. I didn't know her name, major, year, nor did I have any other form of intelligence on her. One morning she was eating alone again and for some unexplained reason, I had considered joining her for breakfast. Yet, for other, unknown reasons, I declined to take the action and chose to sit by myself and enjoy my breakfast in solidarity. She finished her breakfast and left before me, but as she walked passed my table, I thought to offer a cordial and human, 'Have a good day.' Nice, I would imagine. But I found myself outright rejecting the idea only because I felt that it would produce a moment of awkwardness, a condemned period of time where internal social logic has failed and where social capital is draining at an alarming rate during the brief moment of confusion. But as she passed by, a question had come to mind: if by chance a person that you don't know offered you a cordial and sincere, 'Have a good morning,' wouldn't it be odd? That question set off the logical debate.
The Sherlock Holmes would expect the 'normal' (used as loosely as humanly possible) person to be, naturally, caught by surprise but instinctively, perhaps through a psychological autopilot, offer a 'Thank you' with a nonobligatory 'You as well.' A smile would be preferred, but is optional. That way, he or she would know that they were being noticed and that alone would generate some minute sense of self-confidence, enough to assist them in getting through the day's struggles and possibly adjust their outlook of life. Yet, the Moriarty would view that the statement as giving away his or her position and shows that they have been noticed or detected, perhaps watched. The slightest paranoid mind would disregard the sincerity and investigate the possibility of it being creeper-like, unordinary, and foreign. Perhaps label the person who took a social risk as a maverick? A stalker? Does the misreading and mistaking of genuine kindness as a possible threat imply a problem to the person giving the compliment and/or the person receiving the compliment? Is it worth the social, tactical risk?
Little did I know that although this fierce battle was ensuing in my mind, I failed to take into consideration that this outlook was not solely my own. As James Moriarty said, 'Come now, you really think you're the only one who can play this game?'
For some strange reason, approximately two weeks later, I had decided to join this fellow Ivy Cornellian for breakfast. Perhaps I woke up on the right side of the bed and Pharrell William's 'Happy' song took charge of my day's attitude and perspective, but I took a social risk and it proved successful, confirming that my first hypothesis, the Sherlock Holmes perspective, was the accurate, logical assumption to make. Since this decisive victory over Moriarty's pessimistic logic, we have been enjoying general conversations every other morning and are on a friendly basis. But after a few conversations and after briefly revealing the process that it took to finally take a risk to introduce myself, my breakfast companion had revealed the she too had undergone a very similar, internal battle of logic and social hypotheses.
Her Sherlock instincts asked the simple question: why does one sit by himself in a public setting and is it willingly? Noting of the regular and precise arrival and departure times to and from Cornell's Carl Becker dining hall implies an exactness and control of his environment and settings. But if he is not sitting by himself willingly, why is he in solidarity? Does it correctly imply loneliness? Perhaps it is an automatic symptom of hopelessness and depression? If his solidarity is by such unfortunate circumstances, for the average man, this is not the proper way to start the day. And if he is as exact as his practices imply and has as much of a desire to control his environment and setting, then he too would look into utility and the best way to start the day. And there is no better way to start the day than with a light conversation with a fellow classmate. Yet, her Moriarty would assume that the suspect willingly sitting by himself would imply a coldness or unfriendliness instead of a potential sign of social depravity and an unconscious call for attention. The cynical logic will hold and deny actions to approach any such person at the risk of their social endeavors becoming unfruitful and being destroyed by such emotional insensitivity and social savagery.
So now, instead of a critical and epic battle of wits and logic between an inept inspector a and nefarious professor, you have two models of each, fighting to determine the outcome of a mere social encounter that may have little, if any, standing in the real world. A simple 'hello' becomes a logical death match between the optimistic and pessimistic outlooks, sometimes betraying their fellow allying logics and fending for themselves. An internal battle is now matched up into four-man free-for-all, where the winning logic dictates the minor decision to talk to someone who they do not know. I find this conflict to be a weakness to our generation and is highly inefficient on the social scale.
There once was a time where cell phones, the Internet, and other forms of detached and impersonal communication did not exist and people simply engaged in conversation and interaction with those they did not know with very little risk involved. There was a time when this battle of social logic was unnecessary, only wasting time and further inhibiting one's own social skills by either deteriorating what little social confidence they had or defensively rejecting the opportunity to, perhaps, meet someone that may be of great value to them or someone else that you know. Our generation, Generation Y from those at ages 14 to34, were born into the age of technology, where one can take a photo and text it, snap-chat it, share it, Instagram it, and Tweet it without ever saying a word to the people who see it. You can mitigate the social losses contributed to a present conflict by no longer talking to them, deleting their number, and removing them from your social media(s). We live in an age where one can break up with their significant other without a word being said. One can flirt with another person without ever introducing themselves to that person (we call that Facebook creeping). One can misinterpret a text by the absence of an 'lol' or the presence of a smiley face. And when one occasionally reaches a social situation that cannot be helped by technology and can only be tackled by the use of raw social skills, one abstains from the opportunity to interact or they engage in a psychological showdown that proves both inefficient and ineffective towards the situation. Is this really what our generation is to become?
I was raised by my parents who didn't have access to these social assets (and can sometimes be quite confused by them). They raised me on the raw communication skills that they had, where phrases like, 'Don't make me come up there,' 'Get a job,' and 'I love you,' didn't need the smiley face or 'lol.' The meaning of these messages were not dependent on what time of day I got them or the length of nothingness that went between messages. It was this clearness and conciseness that made me look at the psychological charades that we often deceive ourselves with. How I developed the logical processes that I use to this day is probably due to the daily exposure to such impersonal communication methods. Are these processes necessary? If so, there is a major problem. Throw this question to the mental Sherlock and Moriarty beings in your psyche. Will peace treaties be approved of by people who can't interpret language without the use of emoticons? Will Congressmen sign bills into law by retweeting them or Facebook liking them? Will nations go to war over a missing 'lol?' As the psychosomatic war continues, we need to understand that we will each be presented a number of situations that our texting and Tweeting will not be able to aid us in and that is what measures a person's social ability, their character, and their social worth. Facebook 'likes,' Twitter retweets, and Instagram photos prove nothing of a person but only of their social image and their ego. Put the Blackberries, iPhones, and any other Smart phones down and talk to someone. Anyone! It's not just for the betterment of your own social wellbeing, but it could have a dynamic effect on someone else's mental wellbeing as well. I know that there are a lot of wonderful people in this world; you just have to meet them. Don't have a battle in the shadows; just go out there and talk.
Malachi C. Nkosi
- Cornell University Class of 2014