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Brb. Sflr. Ttyl. That’s the current form of communication we have come to know of and familiarize ourselves with – the form of communication we revolve our lives around. However, is this really the best form of communication? Is this the ideal way to talk? Russell Cheah laments.

The value of your friendship depends on how comfortable you are talking about poop, or your pooping habits, with each other; and that is exactly what a few friends and I talked about during a trip. We mentioned that using your phone during a ‘business’ session is one of the causes of constipation because you’re so distracted. Usage of our phones and gadgets has become such a big distraction that it irritates the natural process of excretion. There are so many articles and videos saying that Generation Y or Z are so glued to our technology that we end up missing out in actual conversations, interactions and socializations, too.

There are however, people who celebrate the advancement of our machinery and declare that our cyber lives is something to embrace – saying, “We can now connect with people from the other side of the globe”, “Answers are at the click of a button”, “Take a selfie, post it online, learn about technology and learn with it”. How then, do we draw the line between the two extreme points of being for technology, and being against it? There is also this general assumption that the newer generation (aged 20 and below) prefers virtual communication and finds face to

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face conversations difficult – is this really true? If yes, why?

“I prefer face to face communication because you get to know the other person much better,” says student Gabrielle Tin, 14, “virtual communication can also help knowing that person better but you wouldn’t know their feelings when it’s texted out.”

“I prefer face to face communication because you have instant feedbacks,” said student Alvin Ng, 19, “rather than virtual communication where you have to wait for the person to reply. Last seen or being blue ticked.”

Teenagers actually do prefer face to face communication because it’s more personal. The common stereotype of teenagers not knowing how to appreciate actual conversations is therefore, false. However, when alone, there is a tendency for them to pick up their phone because there is a fear of looking alone or lonely.

“They [teenagers] have social anxiety and they don’t have the necessary skill to socialize with real life people,” said student Kylie Quah, 19, “and to avoid real life interactions they go on their phone.”

We secretly want people to approach us to spark a conversation, but are terribly afraid of not knowing what to say. At the same time, at the bottom of our hearts is a longing to approach others for a decent conversation, but there is a fear of being judged or giving out a wrong impression.

“In Malaysia,” said student Alvin Ng, 19, “if you start speaking to a random person they would think that you have some bad intentions against them.”

As teenagers of the new age, we grew up with and learnt how to communicate via technology. This has stunted our abilities to socialize properly, mostly because we’re not used to actual interaction anymore. However, it’s not anyone’s fault. There shouldn’t be anyone condemning teenagers for using their phones, but to teach us or encourage us to make more friends, and learn to have small-talk.

“I would”, said Gabrielle, when asked if she would put down her phone if and when a person approaches her to talk to her, “definitely would.”

From this we can conclude that virtual communication can never substitute a genuine face to face conversation. The issue of teenagers gluing themselves to their phones also goes beyond just being overly dependent. Most of the time, teenagers cling onto their phones to avoid looking lonely, and to appear as though they have a very active social life that needs their utmost attention – but in truth, they are just blindly scrolling through their feed. Using phones or gadgets, therefore, is a form of escapism from looking lonely or ‘lifeless’.

We don’t need more people telling us the pros and cons of technology, nor do we need people shouting at us for using our phones too much. Instead, we need people to give us the courage to put our phones down, the boldness to approach someone and befriend them, to learn to have actual conversations again.

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