Oh millennials. You, by-and-large, are my favorite chunk of people on the planet right now. You’re smart, and energetic, socially conscious and inclusive. Not all of you, of course. Some of you are as schmucky as anyone in any generation. But this is about a prime fault of the millennial generation: You are terrible at making eye contact.
Eye contact is something a lot of non-psychologically impaired people take for granted.We’re looking at each other all the time. In a conversation, maintaining eye contact shows the other person you are interested and paying attention. Good eye contact not only gives information, it is a significant key to use in sizing up the person who you are talking to. Even when just in walking past someone, making eye contact is a non-verbal cue that shows the other person you know they are alive.
Any eye contact seems to be alarmingly difficult for millennials. When I meet the eyes of millennials for anything longer than a milli-second I can see their brain figuring out what to do next. What they tend to do is look down and away and keep moving. It’s super charming.
Here’s what brought this on: The other day I came home and was opening my apartment door to head inside, when I noticed the door next to mine opening. I turned around to say “hi” to my neighbor, but it wasn’t one of the guys, it was one of their girl friends. I saw her look at me and as I was saying “hi”, she was literally shutting the door. In my face. OMG Millennial Girl! You are killing me!
“Hello” or “Hey” or “How’s it going” said in passing is not an invitation to get into a big conversation. It’s a nicety. It says I see you, I’m aware of your presence, and, I mean you no harm. It’s a social convention.
When I’m greeting people who appear to be millennial-aged, I get the 1, 2 punch of a quick glance and a quicker look away…and I guess I’m lucky they don’t carry around doors because I know how that turns out. These are people not looking at their phones, who appear not to be ear-budded (I have given up on social pleasantries for anyone, of any age who’s immersed in technology). Not being physically plugged in should open the possibility for being spiritually plugged in, so to speak, as in being aware of your spatial surroundings. Shouldn’t it?
Speaking of technology, studies are showing it’s the screen time and the impersonal nature of “communicating” with a screen that is adversely impacting the personal (i.e. In Person) nature of communicating.
Millennials, for a group of strong and independent people, your cell phones and computers have a stranglehold on how you interact in the real world.
I don’t want people to stare at me the way they stare at their cell phones. That would be creepy. But I do want them to glance at me in a similar way they quick check their screen for the time or for new messages and give me a sign of recognition. A nod of the head would be great. A non committal grunt is a decent attempt. An insincere “S’up?” or similar word-type sound would be wonderful. For everyone. Work on it!