Why Interpersonal Communication is Dead

Today, I was going to write about my fondness for admiring older men (another story for another time), but I find myself baffled by the complexities of topics such as harassment and the like. I wasn’t going to talk about such subjects because as a woman, it appears that I may have differing opinions on the matter as opposed to the masses. However, after watching some troubling YouTube videos and reading about scary moments when a member of the opposite sex tried to strike up a conversation; I have become to believe one thing. Interpersonal communication is dying among Millennials.

What is Interpersonal Communication?

 Interpersonal communication is the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages: it is face-to-face communication.

 

Obviously I don’t mean that everyone under that category cannot speak to one another, but as we all become so engrossed with our precious technologies, we seem to have forgotten how to talk to our fellow man. When was the last time you talked to someone you didn’t know who was within 10 feet of you? Furthermore, if someone approached you offering casual conversation, would you accept and engage? I’m not talking about the cat calling weirdness that sometimes happens, but if a person poses a legitimate topic, would you write them off?

I ask this because all too often, I’m seeing/hearing people complain about harassment when the question was harmless. Since we seldom interact with each other in a spontaneous fashion, it seems as though our ability to do so has diminished severely. What I mean by this is that, communication/interaction is like a muscle, if you don’t exercise it from time to time, it will become underdeveloped and essentially useless. I grew up in a small  town in Southern California, where if you were in a long line, it would be completely normal to strike up a conversation with the person standing next to you. Nowadays doing that same action results in the recipient either thinking you’re weird or are trying to hit on them. Even more so, that one encounter becomes the cornerstone argument that harassment is a real and rampant thing that is oppressing the female gender. One Youtuber even went as far as saying that a woman’s #1 fear is rape. Uh, my biggest fear is snakes…so… yeah. I’m not saying harassment does not exist, it does. Has it happened to me? You bet. However, I do not live my life in fear because of a few instances. What’s even more frustrating is that hashtag movements have become a soap box for individuals to talk about the one time they got hit on at the bar by someone who was either incredibly nervous or could have been a jackass.

Let’s be honest, going up to a stranger and starting a conversation is hard, for everyone. It requires one to muster up the courage to speak with you in the first place, which seems like a miracle since we’re so distant from each other anyway. We’re already so closed off from the idea of talking to others without it coming from a cellphone, it’s not even funny. So my next question is, if talking to someone in a line, at a bookstore, or in a bar is so taboo or considered harassment, how are we supposed to connect with one another? Personally, even as an introvert, if anyone offers something interesting to say, I gladly welcome the interaction. Why? Because I appreciate the effort of a person wanting to interact and be human for a minute. What’s not human is being glued to a device as your only means of connecting with the outside world. Also, I find it entertaining as some of the very same people who are for this “movement” are the very same folks who complain about having trouble making friends or meeting potential partners. Well those types of interactions require you to speak to one another. It’s not rocket science.

To be clear, I am not downplaying anyone’s plights or dealings with harassment of any kind. I believe that everyone has the right to feel comfortable and safe. My problem is with the growing few who interpret a book recommendation as a scary experience thus deeming someone creepy. Guess what, not everyone is trying to sleep with you. Sometimes it’s nice to speak to someone new using your voice and not your thumbs. Let’s turn off our phones and get to know each other in the old fashioned way. So, with that being said, I’m off to go to a new coffee shop and speak to a stranger. I encourage you to do the same. 🙂

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Talking to Strangers

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I find it absolutely ironic that the one major thing our parents told us not to do (talk to strangers) is one of the hardest things for people to accomplish. Well, it is for me at the very least. I can be described as an introvert cloaked in an extrovert’s clothing. Meaning, I look like I’m totally outgoing and will act as such, but really I’m just a neurotic weirdo who silently has anxiety attacks when thrown into unknown social situations. When I was a “slave to the man” I had to interact with tons of people. Extroversion was a muscle that I had flexed quite a bit. Now that I’m on Bum Island, most of the time it’s just my fur-child and I.

Quick exercise science question: what happens to a muscle when you don’t use it? You lose it. Same goes for my learned extroversion. Granted I have made more friends in the past 7 weeks than I have all of last year, but the little things tend to freak me out. Grocery shopping while it’s crowded or calling customer service people for example. Recently, I’ve discovered that doing the simplest tasks involving massive amounts of people terrify the hell out of me. Seriously, I’m getting an anxiety just thinking about it. Yesterday, I had to go to the grocery store at night. It went more smoothly than the last time, however I could sense my apprehension as I entered the store. Maybe it’s because I’m not around a lot of people as I used to be but, crowds can get a little overwhelming. Now, I’m not agoraphobic, in fact, I love walking around my neighborhood with my dog. The weather has been nothing short of superb, so I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts. I also frequent the Starbucks near my house to write and to people watch. I absolutely love people, though I’ve been known to observe people instead of interacting with them. I am trying to find a happy medium between the two.

Since my whole declaration of getting out of my comfort zone, I have made progress. I chatted up a cutie at the coffee shop (my execution was laughable, but progress is progress). Also I’ve been really getting into eating healthier and exercising regularly. Now it’s time to start exercising that social muscle. Still, talking with strangers is something we need to do to make them friends right? After all, we all started out as strangers at some point.   

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