Skills we’ve lost


Got to thinking the other day that, while the Internet and the rapid advance of technology are nifty and all, we’ve lost some fundamental skills as a result.

I know, I know…you are thinking, “Duh! That’s amazing Captain Obvious!!”.

Yeah, I know. I’m a master of that sort of thing.

This is on a societal level as well as an individual level. I really hate to sound like one of “those old guys” that sits around and pines for the “good old days”. Because, and let’s be honest, how good were the good old days? Seriously, for anyone that remembers the hair styles of the 70’s and the clothing of the 80’s….yikes!!

However, I think there is something to be said for the lack of “connectedness” that we had even in the late 90’s and early 00’s.

Now, granted, we’ve gained some skills as well, and I have to say that Amazon.com and Amazon Prime are pretty F’ing cool. But, we’ve lost some things that I’m not sure are a good thing.

So, I present my list of things we’ve lost the ability to do as a result of the internet and technology.

/pontification = on

The ability to sit quietly and do nothing.

Have you noticed that these days, just about no one can just sit and be quiet? We all have to grab our phones, or iPods or tablets and “fill in” that time. What happened to sitting on the bus and looking out the window? What happened to time spent mentally decompressing from the day? It’s gone and honestly, I think this contributes to the overall heightened stress level people have today. This is a huge pet peeve of mine and it drives my kids crazy. They have to have their iPads with them just about every moment they are not eating or sleeping.

Heck, they even have them with them when they are watching TV. And it’s not just for the commercials. They are watching TV AND watching something on YouTube at the same time. So, unless they have figured out how to watch one screen with a single eyeball and the other screen with the other…what the hell is the point?

In short, the idea of “quiet time” from Kindergarden is really appealing these days.

The ability to be patient.

People want things instantly today. Waiting for anything is unacceptable. In the world of high-speed internet services and Jimmy John’s instant delivery (not really instant but pretty darn quick), people don’t know how to wait for things.

I see this in my kids and I see this in my work. It’s all got to be right now.

Internet running slow? Oh…I’m sorry, did that Google search take 10.3 seconds instead of 1.7? Yup, you are totally justified in screaming at the IT staff about how the network sucks. Did you have to wait a bit for that 679Mb video to load before you could watch it? I know, your life is terrible.

Is “next day delivery” not fast enough for you…oh, I’m sorry. Wait, no I’m not!

Slow down and be quiet (see above) for a few minute and wait.

There are things in life you have to wait for. Patience is and important life skill and we are collectively losing ours.

The ability to research something (A.K.A how to think for yourself).

OK…so how many of you out there remember having to do a report in school that required you to go to the library (usually after school) to be able to research information in something called an Encyclopedia? You know what I’m talking about (maybe not), those massive sets of books that only libraries had because they collectively weighed like 800 pounds, cost as much as the Space Shuttle and needed an acre of shelf space to store? World Book? Encyclopedia Britannica? Anyone?

Yeah, not today.

Today if you can’t find it on Google or Wikipedia, the attitude is that it doesn’t exist.

Those skills you learned using those tomes of knowledge were life skills that translated to all sorts of things. Information gathering, data sorting, prioritization, outlining, decision making, scheduling, time management. The list goes on.

In the corporate world it translates into people that can’t think for themselves and can’t use basic research tools to do any work. Case in point…Build a large group of people a custom tool to allow them to search your corporate information and run reports on said data. Make it simple to use. Offer to train them on the tool. Train them on the tool. There will always be a significant group of people that will still ask others to do their work for them because they can’t figure out how to find the data. Why, because they don’t know how to think and figure things out.

Learn the tools! It’s not that hard people. Seriously, this is “Thinking 101”. Take the time (see both above) and put in the effort

One of the students in one of the classes I teach asked me about a process a few weeks ago. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “The idea here is to teach you how to think about this process and how to use the tools available to solve the problem. It’s really about teaching you how to think.”

Student: “So is there a step-by-step instruction sheet for this? Can you send me that?”

Me: “No…there isn’t one. Part of this is to have you figure out this on your own. There are several ways to accomplish this and it’s up to you to pick the best one.”

Student: “But how am I supposed to learning anything if you don’t tell me how to do this and how to do the assignment?”

Me: /facepalm

The ability to have basic social interactions beyond 140 characters.

People don’t have conversations anymore. The ability to have and participate in a significant conversation is becoming a lost art. With it, I suspect goes the ability for meaningful sociopolitical discourse.

Dinner tables have been invaded by phones, and family time has been replaced by tablets and MMO games (look it up if you don’t know what an MMO is..you know..research).

I read an article a few days ago trying to teach parents how to communicate with their kids on sensitive issues such as sex, drugs, the violence in the world. All via TEXT messaging. You know since, as the article said, kids relate to this and don’t communicate well in situations where they have to, “communicate face to face with people”.

Hello job interviews? Hello dating? Hello interpersonal conflict resolution? WTF are we allowing our kids to become?

It’s because, again as the article says, “kids today don’t have the ability or desire to have long conversations (see above) nor do they possess the desire to have to focus for a long period of time on a single train of thought”. (Also see above).

Now, I don’t agree with this entirely, but it has some valid (and scary) points.

So here’s my point in all this…yes, I do have a point.

I think we’d all benefit from taking some “time off” from technology, instant gratification, email, and the “always on” culture we seem to be developing.

Sit quietly, watch the sunset when you aren’t on vacation. Learn something by researching it and forming your OWN opinion on it. Talk to your family at dinner.

There is a National Day of Unplugging each year. You can learn more about it here: http://nationaldayofunplugging.com/

It’s past for this year, but for next year, I’m definitely going to sign up and participate.

And so is my family.

They just don’t know it yet.

/pontification = off

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