Like you, I love to rip on Millennials. In the same way that, I suspect, every generation rips on the one(s) that come(s) after. “They’re different, they’re lazy, they’re spoiled, and – dammit – they’re changing things.” Or, in the case of Millennials, they’re narcissistic and entitled, love dubstep and hideous retro fashions, and have you ever even tried talking to one? It’s like they’re on another planet – not from another planet, ON another planet!

Like I said, I enjoy ripping on them with the best of them.

But lately I’ve been reading and consuming a lot of information about the ways media saturation and technology are affecting the way we communicate. It has given me an unexpected understanding of why Millennials are the way they are, and I have to admit that I’ll definitely probably maybe stop making fun of them … as much.

Anyway, I’m going to share some of the fascinating tidbits I’ve learned. After all, you’re going to be dealing with mostly Millennials as candidates if that's not the case already. Maybe this will help explain why they seem anxious in interviews. Or why they’re disinclined for work that involves face-to-face interaction (like customer service).

The best sample I can give you on this complex and massive issue is a TED Talk from last year that focuses mostly on how devices threaten our relationships in general. It’s from psychologist and mobile technology guru Sherry Turkle, and it’s called Connected, But Alone?.

I’d Rather Text Than Talk
Millennials have grown accustomed to a world where, at every given moment, they have a device in their pocket that allows them to stream music and videos, browse the web, shop, read news, manage emails, plus take pictures of their food and use a filter that makes it look 40 years old. (And rumor has it that these devices can also make phone calls... but who’d ever want to use it for that when you can do so many better things?). Plus, if you really have to reach someone, just do it the right way and send a text. Duh.

The Millennial generation is one of skilled typists, tech users, and short message creators, but they got to be that way at a cost. They’re so used to sending texts and IMs that their interpersonal communication skills are suffering. If they have time to consider, edit, and rewrite a message, they’re great. But if it involves face-to-face in real time, they’re in trouble.

My Profile Is My Life
As Sherry notes in the TED Talk, “Our little devices are so psychologically powerful that they not only change what we do, but also who we are.” All the social media profiles, personal blogs, emails, and other web information you find on Millennial candidates when recruiting can be carefully crafted, edited, deleted, and (as needed) adjusted for a candidate to present themselves however they so choose.

I Work Well With Others … If By “Others” You Mean a Computer
Ms. Turkle makes two very poignant statements at different moments in her talk: “They’re almost willing to dispense of people altogether” and “We expect more of technology and less from each other.” The idea is that we’re in an age where computers can accomplish nearly every task, and though Millennials are going to be efficient at finding and utilizing those tools, they’ll turn to technology even when it might be to a fault.

I’m starting to sense this in the recruiting world, too. Recruiters scour the web and utilize new digital tools in an effort to increase the speed and cast a wider net, and some take it even further by doing all their placements digitally and doing away with face-to-face or even over-the-phone interaction.

Hell, maybe all of us in the typical office world are guilty of this with email. Think about it. We often decide not to talk with coworkers because they’re busy answering a barrage of emails … so we send them emails instead. We’re so busy with “communication,” that we don’t take the time to talk – especially about the big picture and things that matter.

Stuck in a Digital Bubble

[caption id="attachment_20118" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Put it down and experience the moment, fer Chrissakes."][/caption]

I’ve only touched on a few of the main points from all the research that’s been done on this, but the overall umbrella point is that we’re creating digital bubbles for ourselves, and future generations stand to only get worse.

You’ve probably experienced some of this phenomenon during a social date. You’re talking with someone and then suddenly they pick up their smartphone and they wind up spending most of their time staring at the screen. Whether it’s conscious or not, these moments show that they’re more comfortable with that kind of communication. They want to create a distance between themselves and others, and want to be in total control.

In creating these devices (which are great, don’t get me wrong), we’ve in essence created little bubble worlds for ourselves that are customized and personalized to our wants and desires, but shut everyone (and everything) else out. It’s gotten to the point that people depend on these devices, and the second they’re separated from them they fidget and become anxious. It’s not that they’re ADD, it’s that they’ve become dependent on devices to entertain, inform, and comfort them.

Tags: Social Media, Business, TED Talk, Millenials, Sherry Turkle, Smartphone