Steph: If people could get comfortable with that kind of interaction, I think it would give us like transferable skills to solve all kinds of other communication problems, right. Situations where we really just need to figure out how to have a higher quality, more effective communication both ways, listening, as well as expressing…
Deb: Not texting.
Steph: I’m not against texting. I think texting is potent and powerful. I think the challenge is moving…
Reba?: I mean, it’s also one-dimensional.
Steph: It’s moving…
Deb: It’s one dimensional, and there’s a lot of misconceptions…
Steph: …I think that’s generational. I don’t think that younger people have the same kinds of issues with it that our generation…
Deb: They breathe affect into a text message. That’s the problem.
Steph: Well, it’s not necessarily wrong.
Deb: ‘Well, they were really angry at me.’
Steph: No; it’s not necessarily wrong.
Deb: No–I think a lot of times it is wrong.
Steph: But maybe intergenerationaly, not laterally, right? So, it’s like, to me, it’s an intergenerational thing, not a blanket, ‘there’s a communication problem,’ with that mode of communication.
Lisa 2: So, Deb, where are you finding these teenagers that are having this issue?
Deb: They showed me…
Steph: I think it does happen; I’m not saying it doesn’t ever happen…[crosstalk 00:06:18]
Deb: They showed me a text, and they went, you know, ‘Look, he’s so angry at me,’ blah, blah, blah…
Steph: But I think the prevalence is different.
Deb: …but I don’t read anger in the text message.
LIsa 2: Uh huh.
Deb: That’s, you know what I mean? [crosstalk 00:06:28]
Deb: It’s now our perception. It’s probably [crosstalk 00:06:31]
Deb: Haven’t you ever had a text message sent by someone you know when you’ve been…
Sam: My perspective…
Steph: Yes, sir.
Sam: I’m a part of this generation. We text a lot. I know that, from, like when we use certain words, like ‘LMAO,’ and you put something like ‘you’re dumb’ it’s uncomfortable. If you don’t put ‘LMAO’ it sounds like you’re criticizing them.
Steph: That’s right.
Sam: Or, if we put like LMAO, it sounds like, ‘Oh, you’re making a joke about it.’
Steph: That’s right.
Sam: I know that certain words can make our texts sound angry or sound fun.
LIsa 2: Right.
Steph: Yeah; that’s what I’m talking about.
Lisa 2: Yeah, that LOL really comes in handy.
Steph: It’s like non-verbal communication which we see…
Steph: It’s about the feel…
Reba: So, are we saying, it’s okay to…we’re just accepting the fact that there’s no eye contact? Are we getting to the point now where we really actually don’t need to sit in front of somebody [crosstalk 00:07:24].
Deb: I see the downside…
Steph: No, no, no. But that’s like a [crosstalk 00:07:25]
Lisa 2: No; it’s an extra communication. It’s not the only communication.
Steph: Yeah. It’s in parallel; it’s not replacing.
Deb: I can’t say for Sam’s age, but for college age students use that as their main…’I had a long conversation with my boyfriend on the phone last night. It was really challenging.’
Deb: I said, ‘So, you were on the phone?’
Deb: ‘No, it was texting.’.
Lisa 2: Oh that’s really difficult.
Deb: And, I’ll give you a great example of what you just said. I had a client…why; am I funny?
Sam: It’s just the way you were saying it, it’s kind of funny.
Deb: Okay. Wait; tell me what I said?
Sam: ‘Is my boyfriend,’ when you said ‘on the phone with him,’ makes me think you’re calling him.
Deb: No; ‘long conversation,’ makes me think it’s on the phone.
Reba: Yeah, that’s true. So, all of this was text, you say?
Deb: And, my favorite is this kid who came in to see me. He said, ‘I want a referral.’ I said, ‘Oh; okay. What are you looking for?’
Deb: ‘Someone who does analysis.’
Deb: And I said, ‘Wow; have you…why?’
Deb: He said, ‘I don’t want to look at anybody when I’m talking to them.’
Deb: That is the worry.
Steph: Yeah, but I think that, I think you’re exaggerating…
Deb: I’m telling you a clinical state…
Steph: Of course. But, there’s so much variety, right? People who are on the spectrum have issues with eye contact. It doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. Like, some of the best communicators I know wouldn’t blend in to our interaction in a way that we didn’t go, ‘Oh, there’s something different,’ right? But that doesn’t make them a less effective communicator. It might make us a less effective communicator if we let that get in the way. Otherwise, you’d just go, ‘Oh, there’s something different happening here; let me go with it.’
Steph: I think the texting is kind of like that, because if you do it enough, you get to being able to have a different kind of conversation…
Steph: …which I think has a lot of meaning and a lot of potential in it which wouldn’t happen…
Steph: …in a context where you are face to face.
Deb: I’m going to bring in a different thing now. So, a younger generation, and even adults, their phones are always attached to them. And I really believe we’re creating a society of ADD.
Steph: So, other people would say we’re just creating, it’s like the precursor to being cyborgs or something like that, you know?
Deb: I just…
Lisa 2: Well, that is happening. We know that.
Lisa 2: I’m looking forward to my bionic knees, quite frankly. They’re going to be awesome!
Deb: Sam: if you text someone you really care about and they don’t text back right away, what happens?
Sam: I noticed in males, it’s just like, they don’t really care that much. But in females, for example, my girlfriend, if I don’t text back right away, she thinks that I’m cheating on her or something [crosstalk 00:10:07]
Lisa 2: Women and men are different.
Deb: Exactly. And that’s the immediate…and that’s the other problem…[crosstalk 00:10:10]
Lisa 2: I’ve learned that, too, that men don’t need a response, but women need some kind of a response. Yeah; you’re right.
Steph: It’s orientation, though, I think, too. Like, a different tempo, right? So, if I’m allowing my life, my communication stream to be what I’m getting through my phone, right? If I’m allowing that to be the thing that I’m orienting to, then it’s just almost like a cultural difference, right? It’s a different timing and a different kind of content. It’s a different discourse then happens when you’re face to face and you have all the visual stuff. It’s not better or worse [crosstalk 00:10:48].
Deb: Can I see this? [gesturing to Stephs phone]
Steph: Yea please do [handing the phone to Deb]
Deb: How did you feel? I’m just demonstrating a point, thank you!
Steph: Yeah, but, okay…
Deb: This is so great!
Steph: …this is so good, I can’t wait to air this. She just tried to throw it in the pool, but she didn’t actually. She just pretended.
Lisa 2: So, Deb, when the kaleidoscope was first invented in Victorian times, people were walking around with a kaleidoscope, and they were afraid of the same thing.
Steph: When what was first invented?
Lisa 2: The kaleidoscope.
Steph: The first time.
Lisa 2: Yes.
Lisa 1: What were they afraid of?
Steph: That people were going to like walk into buildings…
Lisa 2: That’s it! That’s it! ‘This is terrible. It’s destroying everything!'[crosstalk 00:11:20]
Steph: Every new communication technology [crosstalk 00:11:22]
Lisa 2: Every single new thing that comes out, people go, ‘Oh, this is going to be awful [crosstalk 00:11:26]
Steph: It’s the end of civilization as we know it…
Lisa 2: …’until we work out the bugs and we eventually integrate it.’ I love texting because it’s an exchange of information, and I don’t have to waste time, sorry, but having a conversation! You know what I mean? I can just, ‘Boom! Information. Give me information.’ And I’m moving right along. Do you know what I mean?
Reba: But do you pick and choose what you’re doing then in terms of a conversation.
Lisa 2: Of course. Because it’s not a conversation for me so much. It’s an exchange of information.
Lisa 1: Like, we don’t want to have conversations with everyone. I don’t want to have conversations.
Lisa 2: Don’t have time; don’t want to.
Lisa 1: My conversation window is less than a handful of people.
Lisa 2: Right.
Lisa 1: Three of them is my kids and my mom and my ex-husband.
Lisa 2: And Deb.
Reba: I’m right there with you. I don’t want to have conversations with everybody, either, and I like the immediacy of text messages.
Lisa 2: I do; I love that.
Lisa 1: I like the exchange of information.
Reba: And, I also know that there are times when I want to sit down and have a face to face eye contact conversation with someone.
Lisa 2: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s a whole different thing.
Reba: and my point from earlier was that, I mean, no offense, Sam, but my impression is that the generation that’s grown up on phones and with texting, they would defer to texting as opposed to a face to face conversation.
Steph: They might, or they might do both. And they might converge at a different rate. Sam, resident expert. I like this. I’ve got to move closer to make sure that we get you’re brilliance on the recorder [crosstalk 00:12:48].
Lisa 1: Bring the chair over closer.
Sam: In quarter two of eighth grade, we had to do a TED Talk on a topic, and one of my friends decided to do texting to compared to face-to-face. And he got data from like a health clinic on the internet, and he found that kids my age that are, this generation, they prefer Face Timing over texting and face to face. They basically found a way to take technology, but to look each other face to face.
Reba: That’s great. I don’t have a problem; I think that that’s fantastic. As long as for me, there are some conversations that I want to see your eyes, I want to see your body language, I want to hear the tone in your voice. And texting, that’s why I said it’s one dimensional for me. Like, for some things, it’s great. I can do one dimensional all day long, and then it gets to be like, well, ‘With this thing…’
Lisa 2: Now we really need to talk about it.
Reba: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Lisa 2: Okay, we’ve hashed over the facts, right? You know the facts, and okay; now we really need to discuss it.
Sam: That’s when we call each other, and then that’s when we discuss. We have group chats and we talk about the biggest rapper, or biggest movie that came out, and then we end up calling each other, and we end up going to the movies to actually go see it ourselves. It’s like a transfer of communication, and then we go and actually see if it’s true.
Lisa 2: Tapping into prior knowledge.
Lisa 1: Yes.
Steph: It’s also relational though, right? Because it’s also social. And I think that’s what people miss when they say it’s only about the information. No; it’s like a cultural form.
Sam: It is!
Steph: It’s like there’s a ritual to it…
Sam: …and it’s tricky…
Steph: …and you play the ritual out,.
Steph: and then you build a basis of experience, and you do it again, and you get a little sophisticated with it, and then you can tweak it and you can do different things and it evolves. You’re developing relationships, right? Like you’re talking, these group chats are with the same people.
Sam: I also think it’s like, this generation, we don’t really do much that involves…we argue with each other, it’s mostly on the phone. We don’t really do it in front of each other. But then, give it a couple of days, we just forget about it. It’s like our phones are what we use to argue with each other, what we use to make plans with each other, it’s what we use to flirt with each other. We don’t really do it in public anymore. It’s like a…
Lisa 2: So, do you feel like you don’t have emotional conversations or exchange of…
Sam: See, that’s where it gets tricky. I feel like technology is a cultural thing. Like, the generation before us, it was more of face to face where you could show emotion. Now, it’s more of, we can call each other. Face Time each other, we can go on Xboxes and invite each other to parties and talk to each other. That’s how we demonstrate emotion.
Lisa 2: Um hmm
Sam: Like for example, you have social media. There’s a thing where you can go ghost where no one knows where you are, what you’re doing what you’re saying. For us, that means that this person is pissed off and they don’t want to talk to anyone. That for us is how they demonstrate their emotion, saying, ‘Don’t talk to me, I don’t want to talk to anyone. I’ll calm down.’
Reba: So, here’s my question: I think that that’s great, that you have this language and this way. And then, what happens when you’re in a situation where you’re around other people and that exchange has to happen in real life?
Lisa 2: In real time
Sam: That is when it gets like…
Reba: This is my concern. That the skills to develop that [crosstalk 00:16:19]
Deb: See; I agree.
Reba: Are missing.
Deb: …that’s what we were saying. It’s my concern, too.
Sam: That skill, I can honestly say was lacked in elementary school. In sixth and seventh grade. But in eighth grade, I’ve noticed, people started drifting from technology over to more face to face. And now that I’m in ninth grade, early start, for example, I was supposed to take the bus home to go back from my high school to my house, and instead, I walked home with all my friends. That was like an hour and a half. So, we basically drifted away from technology, and we’re not…
Reba: Okay, good. I’m glad to hear it.
Steph: I also…I’m suspicious. It seems to me there’s an assumption behind that concern, which is that we in our generation have done communication so well face to face.
Reba: No, no – you’ve gotta ask me if I think that, and I’ll tell you the answer; it’s ‘No’.
Reba: I think we’ve done a crappy job,
Lisa 2: I agree.
Reba: …which is why I think like me, working on my communication with people isn’t going to happen through this, so I don’t want that to happen to them.
Steph: But, see, I think they’re finding a way to develop skills so they will do it better face to face than we ever did. [crosstalk 00:17:20].
Lisa 2: Yea…
Deb: Why is the suicide rate so high in adolescents right now?
Steph: Because adolescents are smart enough to know the planet is going to die and we’re all going to be extinct and they’re feeling it and we are not doing the things we need to do to change that crap and give them hope.
Sam: That right there, I can agree with this. In my school, we have-well, not my school; it’s more of my middle school-we had a science class. It was basically, we put the kids that really liked science in one group, and then in other classes it was kids like, ‘Oh, we like science, but we don’t.’ And it was the other group was, ‘We don’t really care, we just want to go on computers and do whatever we want.’ That way we could have conversations with facts. Then, you have people that just want to go play.
Sam: We’ve noticed that, no offense, but this generation has to clean up a mess from another one. And we don’t really want to. That’s why we’re creating technology to go to other planets, to leave this one. We don’t want to clean up a mess that we didn’t make.
Reba: So, I’ve been watching this show on HBO called ‘Years and Years.’ Have you heard of this show?
Lisa 1: Airs and Airs?
Reba: Years and Years.
Lisa 1: Ears and Ears?
Reba: No; Years and Years.
Steph: There’s a ‘Y’ in both words; it’s the same word.
Deb: Like, ‘years and years ago…’
Steph: No generational clue there, by the way!
Reba: So, in this show, there is a kid probably about your age, and she is having a really hard time accepting her body, and her parents see that she’s looking at all of this trans stuff on line. So, they sit down with her and say, ‘So, let’s talk about this, because it’s really okay. It’s totally okay if you feel like you need to be in a different body, or you’re in a female body, but you’re really a man. We’re totally fine with that.’ She’s like, ‘What? I don’t feel like that.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, what’s all this trans stuff?’ And she says, ‘It’s trans human. We’re talking about being able to take our brains and put our brains into the cloud, so I won’t have a body anymore. I don’t have to worry about this if I become a part of the computer. If I become [crosstalk 00:19:32]’
Sam: Artificial intelligence.
Reba: And so it was, I was like going, ‘Wow! Holy crap! Is that the next?’ That’s the next thing. It’s called ‘trans human.’
Sam: That is…techno is the next kingdom.
Deb: This is like Black Mirror on Netflix.
Reba: I understand that this is a drama, right? It’s not like a documentary. But it was…
Steph: Science fiction.
Deb: Do you like Black Mirror on Netflix?
Reba: Kind of, but not really.
Deb: I love Black Mirror.
Lisa 2: Me, too. It’s about all this stuff.
Lisa 1: Yeah; it’s freaky. You’ve got to watch this show.
Lisa 2: I think I’ve seen one or two, yeah. [crosstalk 00:20:10]
Reba: So yeah, I was blown away by that concept like, I had never thought. And she was talking like, ‘No; this is really good. And we can do it.’ And her parents are like….
Lisa 2: …’Whoa: didn’t see that one coming.’
Lisa 2: I’ll tell you what’s interesting. From the point of a kid who moved a lot, so I lost contact with friends…these kids never have to lose contact.
Lisa 2: They have the ability to communicate.
Steph: It’s amazing.
Lisa 2: with each other everywhere all the time anytime. It’s amazing. We did not have that opportunity. We had to ask to use the phone, and it was probably ‘no,’ because that’s a long distance call, you know what I mean? That’s how different it is. They’ve all got their own phones, and they’re not asking anybody, right? And they’re not even calling, so it’s really…I think it’s actually more communication.
New Speaker: Yes, I agree with that.
New Speaker: They’re communicating more with each other than we ever did. I was very isolated.
Sam: I think that our communication with each other may be great and we communicate a lot, but we don’t communicate right. We text each other, call each other, I just feel like…[crosstalk 00:21:19]
Deb: Well, that’s ’cause you’re young.
Steph: But, you mean in terms of the content of what you’re talking about?
Sam: Yeah. ‘Cause one thing means one thing, but then when you put it in the hands of a teenager, it means a whole totally different thing.
Steph: Part of it is learning that everybody always makes their own meaning. Always. Every time there’s a conversation. So, I might think that I’m saying whatever thing that I’m saying, but what it means to everybody is always going to be, it’s going to fit your context.
Steph: So there, just that, from the intrapersonal inside each person that’s what happens. And then, there’s kinda like the time you’re living in and what the context of that time is, which creates filters so that that is also…I don’t know. My hypothesis would be that what you hear in your generation from everybody older is going to get transformed into something else because you’re interpreting it based on how whatever it is they say makes sense in relation to the climate crisis and all the rest of the problems.
Steph: And then, you react to that in an emotional way to protect yourself. That’s my guess. And then how to you get through…it takes time to work through the emotions and get to a place of, ‘Now, what can we do strategically.’ I don’t know.
Steph: I have a pretty strong feeling that you’re going to get to the kinds of communication that you want to have because you’re very skillful and you’re very articulate, and it’s really a pleasure to talk with you.
Sam: Thank you.
Recorded on July 4, 2019.
Location: Granby, MA