When I picked up my 15 year old daughter from an activity this week, I saw her standing there, waiting for me, tapping away at her cell phone. “Who were you texting?” I asked cheerfully as she slid into the car. “No one,” she replied, “I was just faking it.”
Are you nodding your head right now? My teenager clued me in on a growing trend: I’ll call it the chronic communi-faker. Whenever teens feel awkward in public, they whip out their phones and pretend to be engrossed in text messaging.
Now think about this. Haven’t you pretended to make or take a cell phone call in order to avoid speaking face-to-face with someone? Gen Y simply skips the counterfeit conversation…they let their fingers do the faking. And they don’t just communi-fake to avoid talking. They use it as impression management.
In today’s wired world, we all want to appear actively engaged with others, even when we’re not. We want others to think we’re connected, so we don’t feel like lonely losers. Boomers instinctively pull our phones to our ears. Younger generations tap, tap, tap.
I coached three groups of clients in presentation skills this week, so I used the opportunity to poll plenty of professionals about their experiences with communi-faking. EVERYONE, every single person, admitted to being a communi-faker. Even CEOs. Let’s see if you relate to the 5 most common reasons why people told me they communi-fake:
- “To avoid talking to someone I don’t want to speak with.”
- “So I don’t feel self-conscious about being alone.”
- “To ditch a pushy salesman or a boring conversation.”
- “I’m addicted to my phone – I feel naked if I’m not using it.”
- “For protection in a parking lot.”
Using a phone as a parking lot protector seems sensible, as long as you stay aware of what’s happening around you. But don’t the other reasons strike you as dodging or ditching face-to-face conversations, or of being insecure?
Bottom line: communi-faking shows we have a primal need to connect with others, which I take as a positive sign. Score one for the human race. But face-to-face communication skills are plummeting as we avoid true engagement. Ironically, as we fake-connect, we’re disconnecting by tuning others out.
Plus, there’s always this concern with communi-faking: what if your phone rings when you’re on a faux call?