So yesterday was Halloween and, although I’m not super into it, I still like to throw on a makeshift costume (which typically consists of random items from my closet having been thrown together to create something that sort of resembles a costume) and pass out candy to all the cute little kids dressed up like Disney characters and Marvel action figures.
But let me just say, these modern-day trick-or-treaters are completely and utterly wack.
Out of all the kids who knocked on my door to milk me of my beloved mini Snickers bars and Milky Ways, only about a handful said “trick or treat” and probably less than that actually said “thank you.” The majority of them just blankly looked at me, silently stuck out their candy bags as if I owed them something, and marched off to their next victim. I suddenly wished I had a big bowl of “tricks”– fiber bars and prunes — to drop into all of their bags, because those kids certainly did NOT deserve a single “treat.” I don’t care how cute they were.
When I was a kid, I remember actually shouting, “Trick or Treeeeeeaaaat!!!!” in that annoying, cute little voice, while also smiling and sticking out my candy bag to collect my reward before happily responding, “Thaaaaank yoooouuuu!!!” (in that same annoying, cute little voice) and skipping off to the next house. So back in those days, kids were cute and exciting. Oh, and I forgot to mention polite. My, how times have changed.
I ultimately blame social media for this new, socially awkward generation of children who communicate better on their smart phones, tablets and laptops than they do face-to-face. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually, the age-old Halloween tradition will evolve into posting virtual candy bars to kids’ social-media profiles after viewing their updated, filtered profile pictures showing off their Halloween costumes and ‘liking’ their statuses reading: “Trick or Treat!” I can totally see it now.
But honestly, kids nowadays aren’t the only ones whose communication skills are way off. We, the adults, are just as bad, if not worse. Prime example:
I’m currently an editor for a business-media company headquartered in the Detroit Metropolitan Area. I’ve been working for this company for about two years now, and not once has there been a company-wide social gathering of sorts. Sure you have the random happy hour groups and the ‘cool kids’ that meet for lunch everyday in the break room (I didn’t make the cut), but working for a publishing company driven by print and digital media, it’s easy to spend the majority of your workday sitting in front of a computer typing away and pausing briefly to respond to another email from a fellow colleague whose cubicle/office is literally steps away from yours. Ten minutes later, you run into that same colleague in the break room, and a random bystander would think the two of you were complete strangers. It doesn’t get more socially awkward than that.
So after witnessing far too many of these borderline-sociopathic moments, I took matters into my own hands — after first getting approval from the HR director and the heads of the company, of course — and planned and executed a few social events that would be open to everybody in the company. About a month ago I started an after-work bowling league, which has gotten a lot of positive feedback, and just recently I planned a company Halloween Day, complete with costume- and decorating contests, games and prizes. Of course everyone didn’t participate, but the people who did were very excited and appreciative of my efforts. And the ones who didn’t participate in any of the festivities still wound up reaching out to me to find out who won the contests! My end goal of spearheading these events was simply to build more personal interaction between my colleagues and me, who, too often, are easily trapped in our own little creative bubbles. So for many of us, this was a refreshing change. Mission accomplished.
Although this new, digital era has clearly taken a toll on our communication skills, it wouldn’t hurt to go ‘old school’ and actually smile and speak to the person in passing, rather than look down at your phone to avoid making eye contact. And for all you mothers and fathers out there, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to teach your kids a thing or two about trick-or-treating.