Technology has come a long way, even in the past ten years. Current trends and social expectations have caused a shift in how we communicate and interact with each other.
Although the jury is out on when it all started, some researchers believe that human beings started communicating with each using vocalization as far back as two million years ago and as early as 50,000 years ago. There’s a great article written by sciencemag.org that covers some of this and goes on to explain how the spoken word may have contributed to our ability to develop hunting weapons and tools during our ancestral times. Here’s the article if you want to give it a read: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/01/human-language-may-have-evolved-help-our-ancestors-make-tools
I remember being in my teens and sitting in a small group at a local fast-food restaurant. We’d get food and sit there for hours, just chatting, laughing and shooting the proverbial s&*t. We’d sometimes get booted for being too loud, but we had an active and productive interaction with each other. These days, seeing a small group of teenagers together involves a whole lot of silence and everyone staring down at their phones. Sometimes you can even catch some of them texting each other from across the table! I use teenagers as an example, but adults are often just as bad.
Dating and romantic interactions certainly used to be a vocal skill. I used to remember that if I had interest in a particular person, I had to grow the testicular fortitude to walk up to them and say hi; a bit of chit-chat or small talk before asking if they’d like to grab coffee or go to dinner. These days? Swipe right (Or is it left? I’ve never used Tinder). Making certain your profile “looks good” has replaced showering, getting dressed and going out to meet people in person.
In fact, in many different respects, approaching people in public has almost become taboo. If you walk up to someone and tell them you find them attractive, it will be a coin toss as to whether they smile and sit to coffee or if they slap your face and call you a creep (And no, before anyone gets smart with me, I’m not speaking from personal experience!)
Applying for jobs, ordering everything from furniture to food and even communicating with far away friends and family have all started happening through technology instead of walking into a place of business in person or picking up the phone to actually speak.
I remember just a few years ago, I was working with a younger guy who spent a great deal of his shift on his smart device. It never interfered with his duties, but he usually had it out. He started using this app where you use a spoken message, send it and a few moments later the person you’re speaking to would send a vocal reply.
At one point while he was using the app, he tells me (while holding a cell phone in his hand, no less) “Do you know what would be cool? If they made this app where you’d have an open line to talk and the person on the other end could talk as well, without having to send the individual messages…” I replied, “They already invented that, it’s called a telephone…” I got a lost look of confusion as though I had grown a second head.
Although you need to know your audience and be mindful of your environment, there’s nothing wrong with smiling and saying hi to someone. Don’t be afraid to interact with humanity in person. You were taught how to speak long before you learned to tap a device screen, and humans have the unique benefit of using language as a primary communication tool. So embrace that uniqueness. ☯