A combination of the ease with which we can communicate via technology and the lack of social interaction that stemmed from COVID has significantly reduced our social skills. Consequently, we are left with many Gen-Zers who fail to politely and effectively carry themselves in public settings. I have witnessed the discomfort in formal social environments mostly among my college peers. Specifically, people are simply unable to look you in the eye when you are speaking.
Eye contact. It’s so underrated, yet so important. Not only is holding eye contact a sign of respect, but it also demonstrates confidence. Whether it be with an intellectual partner, romantic interest, or close friend, there is an inexplicable depth added to any conversation when you are captured in the gaze of the person with whom you are conversing. It is in these instances that individuals experience a sense of deep connection to one another, opening a door for the most fruitful, hilarious, and substantive of conversations to emerge. Ask yourself this, Gen-Z… when you are speaking with someone are you consistently looking at them in the eye with undivided attention? Or, do you start to feel uncomfortable and gaze over their heads, at your hands, or phone when you feel like you are being looked at too closely? I may be wrong, but based on observation, the latter is more likely.
The point is this: rather than shying away and shielding yourself from opening up to someone in conversation by looking away, immerse yourself in the discussion fully by actually looking at the individual or individuals you are speaking with. Eye contact will enable you to become more confident in your social skills and reap the plethora of benefits that come from a willingness to invest yourself in a substantive discussion. Plus, it’s just rude to look away when someone is talking to you.
Technology innovators are well on their way to mimicking the ideal eye contact humans are lacking these days. Nvidia is a technology company that works with AI and the metaverse infrastructure to address issues plagued by society, such as climate change. Their technology is already used by various science organizations in their research and projects, like DNA sequencing. Recently, they have come out with a deep fake product that utilizes AI to make it look like you are making eye contact even if you are not. While this feature will prove beneficial for content creators recording themselves using a script, it is yet another way in which technology wizards are implementing human characteristics better than humans these days.
There are two issues. The first is not that Gen-Z is socially awkward across the board or will go to a college party and stand in the corner mute and alone. Rather, the problem is that we fail to conduct ourselves with proper mannerisms, such as consistent eye contact, in more formal or uncomfortable social settings. The second is that technology is capitalizing on a skill that humans lack, making an individual on a screen more likely to have a profound personal connection than an actual person. As we look to the future, we need not stare creepily into the eyes of every person we speak to. Instead, we should acknowledge the need to improve our social skills through respectful nonverbal conduct and push ourselves to develop connections with people outside the confines of technology.