MOHAI's History Cafe: Nathan Vass on Generationally Specific Behavioral Shifts in Communication (Video)
I wish the video could show you how packed the place was. Every available place to sit (and, in the back, stand, as many did) was taken. Wordstotime.com had me giving the speech in 72 minutes– but we got it out in 54 jam-packed minutes, and I’m grateful it went over as well as it did, especially given the pointed and specific nature of the material. (When all the copies of the bibliography of a lecture go like hotcakes… what can I say but thank you!!) The comments afterwards from folks young and old about how the evening put a name to their daily concerns, reinvigorated their appreciation of the value of knowing history, how addressing contemporary problems can be exciting and inclusive... I’m both thankful and pleasantly surprised.
Because hearing this data about your age group can be easy to take personally. I speak both for the audience and myself when I first encountered the research. It’s useful to remember we have a tendency to interpret facts emotionally, to take data in as something containing judgment. But facts aren’t judgments or opinions. They’re statements of the nature of existence, and they contain no agenda.
My aim in presenting them was to package together what we usually hear in the context of disappointment as something else– a reason to get excited. What impedes my generation’s awareness of history, happiness, and value of real-world communication, and how can we– as individuals– address that? Problems don’t get solved by pointing fingers from the outside, but by creating generative positive momentum from within.
If there was any ambiguity about these concerns, I wanted to clarify them here. Anyone more than passingly familiar with my work knows that casting a pejorative eye on others doesn’t interest me, and that generalizations are the opposite of my approach. Only someone unfamiliar with statistical analysis would accuse myself, Twenge or others of generalizing or stereotyping: stereotyping is the opposite of what such research provides.
To stereotype is to presume an individual’s actions as representative of their culture group. Observing trends over big cross-sections of people using the scientific method is the best way to obviate stereotypes, not perpetuate them; we learn with accuracy which behaviors most, but not all participants in a study reflect. To say that more people in South Korea than in Germany know how to use chopsticks isn’t a stereotype; it’s a statistical reality.
And in the same way responding to emotion with logic never works, reacting to facts with emotions only gets us so far. What I mean to say is– don’t take offense, contemporaries of mine. I like you. I am as I imagine you are: another young person like and unlike these statistics. Just like the subjects in the scores of studies I source from, I am a young person who uses technology too much, who wishes to make healthy decisions. Let’s continue to be who we are, and take care of ourselves.
Enjoy! Click the PDF below for a detailed bibliography (also included at the end of the video).
Special thanks to Brittany Rose Hammer for filming, editing and mixing this video, to MOHAI for allowing it and recording it, to Rachel Spence for everything, and to the audience for being as open and enthusiastic as they were.