Are Millennials Socially Impaired or Just Rude?

A reflection on the importance of simple greetings

Posted Aug 30, 2017

Max Pixel
Source: Max Pixel

I’ve taken to a new habit lately on my evening walks around the neighborhood.  I’ve started yelling at people.  It’s just one word, but I suppose it is one millennial psychologist’s personal case study and field experiment.  I yell, “Hi!!!”  or “Hello!!” in a booming voice.  It sounds partly friendly and partly terrifying, or at least this is how I intend it to sound.  This has happened after a disturbing new trend I’ve been observing primarily among the millennials around me.  I don’t know if it’s a lack of social skills or simply poor manners, but it is uncanny how many millennials when coming face to face with you on a walkway will look in every single direction but your face as if to avoid the torturous pain of saying hello.

The millennial generation certainly has had its share of criticisms but also great strengths which I have elaborated upon in past posts such as this one here.  However, as I work in my clinical practice with teens glued to their phones, I regularly discuss the social implications later on in life with their parents.  And the evidence of what will happen is staring us in the face.  Although not digital natives, millennials acquired technologies still in formative years.  They grew up with Facebook stalking as a life skill and seem to have lost other more imperative ones in the process.  If they grew up with phones and technology impinging on their every waking moment in college, this cannot bode well for our current younger generation.

However, part of me also can’t help but wonder why I’m observing this phenomenon.  Are basic social skills so difficult to practice?  Or is there something else at play here?  I’ve heard therapy patients who share that they fear initiating any social contact for fear of rejection by others (which I guess translates to terror of others not saying hello back?).  Other patients discuss not understanding what to do if a social interaction continues beyond a simple hello.  Or they worry about how they appear or come off to others. 

Maybe in this social media fueled generation where their social personas are so carefully scripted and manicured with filters and effects, simply being authentic is too raw or genuine.  Or perhaps in our politically turbulent world, we have come to care less and invest less in others.  As such, we allow simple salutations and warm greetings to fall to the wayside.  I hate to think we are living in a world where we are simply becoming less kind especially when we see the disasters, pain and suffering that is happening all around us. 

So to the millennials reading this, the next time you come upon a stranger, please don’t just look away.  Make eye contact.  Smile.  Say hello.  These simple gestures are needed in the world when so many of us are going through tough times.  Look up from your phones, or better yet, put them away altogether.  And if I see you outside the trails around my neighborhood and yell at you, it most certainly is not personal.  I just want you to acknowledge the presence of others.  I have the privilege and honor of working with patients who are suffering on the inside but look perfectly fine to the outside world.  You do not need to hear their woes or know their tale.  But do know this, that kindness goes very far.  The simplest of gestures make all the difference and saying hello can be a beautiful start.

Follow me on Twitter at MillenialMedia where my tweets are not meant to sound booming.