A webinar about Generation Z (those born since 1996) pointed out how communication styles are different for those who are Z’s than even for Millennials or other recent generations. The speaker pointed out that Generation Z prefers to communicate on-line rather than in-person, and that when they do share “live” that their grammar and communication skills can be “frightening.”
I thought of this when I heard from a colleague that he had just visited an “all i-Pad bar” at the Minneapolis airport. While there is still a human to prepare the food and beverages, all ordering and paying is done via a technology-only interface. My colleague recounts: “There was a bartender and only two people at the bar. I asked him if I could get a Coke and something to eat. He said yes and directed me to one of the 500 iPads they had all over the place. I said, ‘Can’t I just tell you what I want?’ and he said: ‘No, you have to order all things through the iPad and pay there as well.’ Another older lady sitting at the bar just looked at me and rolled her eyes.”
Ordering food is one more learning lab for conversation that has gone by the wayside. No wonder younger people prefer technology; they have far more practice with it! Think about the skills you can develop from chatting with a bank teller, a server, clerks in retail stores, cashiers (instead of self-checkouts), travel agents and dozens of other professionals with whom you make small talk during your transactions. Those opportunities are lost to automation, and while it has made life far easier, it has also made communication skills far worse.
While the younger travelers will enjoy ordering their food in the human-less method to which they have become accustomed, there is something lost in the process. A bartender app can’t replace the ambiance of “shooting the crap” or cheering together over a sporting event. An iPad can’t teach people how to develop conversational skills or to learn interpersonal confidence. Only a human can do that.
Before you trade off engagement for efficiency and swap talk for tablets, think twice. A live interaction is a gift not to be wasted.