Daily Iowan Columnist: Snapchat-Era Students May One Day List ‘Talking’ as a Résumé Skill

By Karen Funaro, Garrett Miley & Leigh Anne Tiffany

Communication among members of the “Snapchat generation” is suffering, according to University of Iowa student Joe Lane.

“Kids my age have been growing up with emails instead of handwritten letters, text messages instead of phone calls and Snapchats instead of face-to-face conversations,” Lane proclaims in a column for The Daily Iowan. “So while we may be the most technologically proficient generation ever, we are also the least capable of handling simple in-person communication. … The issue is that as we move further into the Snapchat generation, interpersonal skills and strong relationships start to fade away. Although they may never be gone completely, I fear for the day that ‘talking’ falls under special skills on résumés across the country.”

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In a recent chat with CMM correspondents Karen Funaro, Garrett Miley & Leigh Anne Tiffany — part of our esteemed College Media Geeks interview series — Lane further discusses the characteristics of a society in which talking is secondary.

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Joe Lane, University of Iowa

You begin your column by describing phone calls in some students’ eyes as “sigh-inducing.” Do you see this shift away from verbal communication becoming a trend among millennials?

Yeah, especially being on a college campus. … It’s certainly obvious [among] my friends and just around campus, you can see people walking down the street texting, you’re walking alongside a friend texting or you’re both texting. So it seems to me [what’s happening is] just the increased un-comfortability with person-to-person contact and with face-to-face communication.

Are modern forms of communication leading to a lack of understanding — the type you might get face-to-face through facial expressions and body language?

Absolutely. I think that’s something I struggle with [when] texting. It’s hard to read sarcasm or a joke over a text because it could be something completely serious and you would have no idea of knowing unless someone were to preface it with, “Here’s a joke” or something like that.

You write in your column about a gap forming in interpersonal relationships because of technology like Snapchat and texting. Do you see a way to overcome this gap in the technological age?

The big thing is building the foundation of a relationship outside of those computerized forms of communication. … [Technology] certainly is helpful in maintaining relationships and building them to some extent, but the reality is that a relationship can be much deeper if the foundation of communication is based on face-to-face or verbal communication as opposed to texting or email. And it is a much more personal form of communication if you have to see the person or hear them talk. So I think that it doesn’t necessarily have to stop — texting and things like that — but in order to have these relationships, the relationship has to be originally built on those verbal forms of communication.

How do you see texting lingo and the casualness of electronic communication impacting students as they enter the professional sphere?

As a college student, a lot of it is how I see my friends email their professors and things like that. They’ll ask me [when sending a message to a prof], “Does this sound OK?” And in reality what they sent is something they would send to me or maybe a parent or other relative. It doesn’t sound like something you would hear in a professional realm. It is super-casual, which isn’t a good thing because power structures start to fade away and subsequently respect for power structures [fades as well]. I think that’s definitely not a good thing as my generation starts to enter the workforce.

“Unfortunately, I think my generation, despite the fact that they’re the generation most capable of being informed instantaneously, don’t use the technology for that. So, for example, Twitter is often used for seeing what your friends are up to as opposed to following news sources or other things that can really tell you what is going on in the world.”

With certain real-time communication options — like Skype and Snapchat — people can engage face-to-face through photos and videos in nearly real-time. Do you see any benefits from this accelerated form of communication, especially the speed and ease with which we can obtain information and reach out to people worldwide?

Absolutely. I think there are a lot of benefits. You mention how we can always be informed. Unfortunately, I think my generation, despite the fact that they’re the generation most capable of being informed instantaneously, don’t use the technology for that. So, for example, Twitter is often used for seeing what your friends are up to as opposed to following news sources or other things that can really tell you what is going on in the world. I think that falls in line with a common point that’s made: We have the world at our fingertips, basically, yet we choose to use technology to talk to the person right next to us.

You close your column by saying that talking may be a “special skill” on our résumés one day. Do you actually see communication digressing to such a degree that being able to hold a face-to-face conversation is a skill?

I certainly don’t see that happening in the near future. I think in the generation coming up behind me … the kids born in the early 2000s, the only type of communication they are really becoming familiar with is texting or even emailing to some extent. … We’re moving more into this point of our communication being based on typing and on forms of communication where we can’t express tone or expression face-to-face. Being a good public speaker or at least a good interpersonal communicator in itself isn’t a special skill, but the ability to do it will be pleasantly surprising — whereas in the past the ability to do that was just kind of assumed. You can handle a conversation in an interview now, whereas eventually it may reach a point where being able to keep yourself composed and talk easily in an interview is something [potential employers or admissions counselors] will be impressed by because unfortunately it eventually may reach a point where that stands out.

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