Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
to understand what life means and where it’s going;
A manual for living,
for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
and give our young people a grasp on reality.
There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,
still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.
  Proverbs 1:2-5 (The Message)

Have you ever thought about what the difference is between being smart and being wise?  Maybe, if you have as much gray hair as me, you have seen the difference first hand.

Ole Solomon was a pretty bright guy in my book– he is credited as writing the wisdom literature including Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The latter is one of my favorite books in scripture. It has nuggets and insights packed away that are timeless.

So, what’s the difference between being smart or wise.  To me, I know a lot of people who are very smart, but I wouldn’t say they are wise. The French have a phrase which is appropriate to mention: savoir faire    It means knowing what to do in any situation or having an instinctive sense of doing the right thing at the right time.

Not everyone has savoir faire in all situations, myself included. I know smart people who don’t have savoir faire in any situation. In the Proverbs 1 passage, Solomon says that even seasoned men and women can learn a new thing or two and get fresh wisdom to “probe and penetrate the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.”

Years ago (I won’t say how many) when I graduated from law school, our commencement speaker was Albert Coates, a distinguished law professor.  In his address, he gave a homily which gives a clue to the answer of the difference between smart and wise. He spoke about a farmer in Orange County who had encountered a difficult problem and solved it in a very ingenious way.

When Albert commended the farmer’s solution of the problem, the farmer said: “Well, Albert, those of us who don’t have book sense sometimes just have to use our heads.” Wow.  I just spent three years learning “the law” and am now told that I have to use my head, too.

I remembered that homily throughout my 45 years of law practice.   Success in the legal profession, is not just knowing “the law”, but to understand how to apply it to the benefit of one’s clients.  Anyone can learn “the law” or other information, but good ones develop the ability on how to best apply it.

You may recall that wisdom is one of the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12. James also addresses it in James 1:5; “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

I love the James passage because of the phrase “without finding fault.”  It demonstrates what grace is all about. Unmerited favor.  No one “deserves” to be wise, or to be anything else, for that matter.  That’s a good thing.

The topic of wisdom is ripe for today. The next generation is looking for the older generation to spend time with them – build a relationship of trust – and then be a sounding board for their lives and life issues.

Wisdom is a product of experience. For those with gray hair, not all our experiences were good ones, but we learned something from them just the same.

Having knowledge is fine, but if you can’t use it correctly, then it isn’t much benefit. Will Rogers (1879-1935) said it this way: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

The impact of social media and the overuse of digital media by the next generation is getting scary and worrisome.  Looking over my posts over the last 18 months, I’ve tried to connect the dots of the trends of the next generation with the results.

Given that the next generation spends an average of 6 to 8 hours a day digitally, it is clear to me that an intervention by parents and mentors may be needed to stop the damage.

I see is declining intelligence due to overuse of smartphones.  The statistics are in black and white – they are in my previous post (Dumb and Dumber), and I won’t repeat them.

This is not just a North American phenomenon – I have friends around the world who have seen the same thing happen to their young adults who are overly connected digitally.

The next generation is not absorbing knowledge, information or facts, but relying on their digital devices for answers. Or, even worse, they rely on their peers. In the latter case, it is the blind leading the blind, because their peers aren’t any better off intellectually.

One of the newer mental health disorders is called the Google Effect. I discussed it in my post entitled Digital Dark Side (March 6, 2017).  The Google Effect is descriptive of a condition where our brains are losing the ability to retain facts or information.

Research now shows that the ability to have all information at our fingertips from the beginning of civilization is altering our brain functions and the ability to retain information. The retention of information is knowledge. If you can’t retain information, you have limited knowledge (even if you can look it up).

The result:  the next generation cannot think critically. Their lack of reading because of the encroachment of the digital age is very concerning. Peggy Noonan, in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, said this: “If you can’t read deeply you will not be able to think deeply. If you can’t think deeply you will not be able to lead well, or report well.”

According to Barna Research, the statistics bear this out. Close to a third (33%) of millennials report they have read zero books.

I recently helped a pastor file for a tax exemption for his church. He was formerly the youth pastor at a larger church. As we were talking, he confirmed that the youth today are having difficulty understanding or thinking through scripture. That leads to the question: How do you teach a biblical world view to this next generation who cannot think critically?

Critical thinking is a necessity for tomorrow’s leaders. If the analysis of an issue is based on limited knowledge and limited depth of thinking, one must wonder where we are going.

Right now, a missing component of the next generation is that their judgment is being formed on very shallow information without much thought or consideration.  The Beloit College Mindset List (2021) is published annually reflecting attitudes of incoming freshman to college. This years’ list includes the following:

Once on campus, they will find that college syllabi, replete with policies about      disability, non-discrimination, and learning goals, might be longer than some of their reading assignments.”

How do you achieve wisdom where knowledge is just a millimeter deep?  Wisdom goes hand in hand with critical thinking.

Albert Einstein is quoted in one of my favorite quotes: “You cannot solve your problems with the same thinking that created them.” Mentors already are armed with experience and a different perspective to help the mentee arrive at the best solution.

I recently challenged the men in a bible study that I attend on Friday mornings.  There were well over 75 in the room. I said: “The collective wisdom in the room is massive, but it does no good if you are not willing to pass it on to the next generation.”

I often tell my mentees that it is a lot easier and less painful to learn from the mistakes of others, and since I have made 100’s of them, I’ve got a lot to share.

The mentor’s role is not to teach the mentee what to think.  A mentor’s role is to help the mentee learn how to think.  How to analyze an issue or provide a fresh perspective. Analysis involves critical thinking which is losing ground in this digital culture.

If the next generation is not learning from reading, nor doing any critical thinking, how can we impact that trend?  There’s a lot of answers – improved schools, parents that place reasonable limits on digital access, etc.  At a minimum, we should encourage reading.

The challenge is immense. The trends of a digital world are so pervasive today that it is almost overwhelming. I am always searching for relevant articles and books suggest to my mentees which may be helpful for them to understand a problem or issue. They don’t have to agree with the content, but the process of making them think critically is my aim.

If you have never mentored, please consider this a plea to get out of the stands and onto the playing fields with someone younger.  They are out there looking for you because many realize that they need help with answers to questions that they can’t answer on their own.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors are uniquely poised to fill in the gap for a mentee when it comes to solving problems or working through issues. He can help his mentee develop the ability to think critically, which is an all-important quality needed by tomorrow’s leaders.

FURTHER STUDY: Barna Research on Reading: The State of Books and Reading in a Digital Age https://www.barna.com/research/the-state-of-books-and-reading-in-a-digital-world/

The Mindset List from Beloit College:  https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2021/

RESOURCES: The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Judy Jacobs sing Days of Elijah which talks about overcoming trials:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUIa674GGCo

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.


Dumb and Dumber


Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, Proverbs 3:13

The title of this post comes from an old movie by the same title. The movie depicts the adventures of two men on a cross-country trip who do incredibly stupid things.

The movie has a lot of great quotes, including the following:  Harry: “She wrote me a john-dear letter…something about me not listening enough. I don’t know… I wasn’t really paying attention.”

With the movie as a backdrop, there are several trends of the next generation that are quite worrisome.  They include the following:

  • Diminishing vocabulary – middle school vocabulary has dropped from 25,000 words to 10,000 in the last 10 years
  • Short attention spans – the millennials have an attention span shorter than that of a gold-fish
  • Lack of critical thinking – partly because of the previous attributes, the next generation shows an inability to do any critical thinking
  • Reliance on social media for their opinions and values
  • Lowered levels of interpersonal relationship
  • A school environment that caters to self-esteem resulting in grade inflation so that now 49% of students get A’s while the SAT scores are declining.
  • Lack of reading in general by the next generation
  • Extended childhood and adolescence

Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter was recently interviewed and commented on the impact of Twitter which is a popular type of social media that limits posts to 140 characters or letters.

Williams asserted that the recent election of Donald Trump was a result of “how social media platforms are helping to ‘dumb the entire world down’” and “undermine our sense of truth”.

He continued that it was not so much an issue of an election, but “it is the quality of the information we consume that is reinforcing dangerous beliefs and isolating people and limiting peoples’ open- mindedness and respect for truth.” Wow – and this from the founder of one of the culprits.

Note that two things suffer according to Williams:  truth and open-mindedness.  Absorbing only 140 character messages leads to a lack of tolerance because there is no depth of understanding of an issue. (See my post on Tolerance on August 29, 2017).

Add to the twitter founder’s comments that the next generation is being dumbed down, scores of the SAT, a standard college admission test, have now sunk to the lowest level in over ten years. At the same time, another trend is opposite:  the percentage of students getting  a grade of A (or the highest grade) has increased.

A recent study on “grade inflation” was conducted by Michael Hurwitz of The College Board, and Jason Lee of the University of Georgia. They found that in 1998, 38.9% of students in high school had an A average. By 2016, the percentage had crept up to 47%, again, all the while the SAT scores declined.

The authors of the study rejected the “idea that students were actually getting smarter over time.” I can only reflect at my own high school experience at a difficult prep school which put a premium on excellence and only about 10% of our class had the equivalent of an A average.

Jean Twenge was recently interviewed on prime time television. She is the author of a new book entitled “iGen“. In the interview, Twenge noted that the next generation spends an average of 6 to 8 hours a day in the digital world.

Their lack of social interaction and isolation makes them unprepared for life, where they are not graded on a curve, and real excellence is rewarded.

Their disdain and lack of trust for all institutions – including government – shows up in studies which show that millennials don’t vote.  Only about 20% of Americans aged 18 to 29 voted in the last election, making it the lowest turnout in 40 years.

As noted in The Atlantic, Fordham Foundation’s Robert  Pondiscio is quoted as saying “The more educated you are, the more likely you are to be civically engaged.”

A Pew Research study also showed that a high majority of young adults struggle with basic questions about politics – i.e., who would the next House speaker would be, or what is the annual inflation rate, for example.

Civic literacy has dropped dramatically, with about a fourth of high school seniors scoring “proficient” on the federal government’s civics exam. That does not bode well for the future. The lack of intellectual curiosity coupled with their lack of reading and critical thinking is a recipe for disaster.

Even though they may appear apathetic to government, the next generation is very concerned about transparency according to another article in The Atlantic. Their fixation on transparency makes them more motivated to volunteer than to vote.

They see volunteering as a better venue for exercising their civic duty. Volunteering doubled from its previous averages in 2103 by the younger age group between 16-24.

As a mentor, you should probe to see what your mentee understands about government. If needed, have your mentee do some reading about basic civics and government. Volunteering may be admirable, but it won’t help sway policy decisions of the government which will affect real change in the future.

The next generation’s focus on transparency and accountability also plays into the next generations’ desire to be connected to mentors who are transparent. As one young man, age 17, texted me: “I know I don’t have all the answers (other people don’t either), but people like you definitely have answers that I don’t.”

While low aptitude in civics also reflects failures in the educational system, it also reflects this next generations’ lack of interest in being involved in institutions that they don’t see as either accountable or transparent.

As mentors and parents, some of these trends have to be concerning. Unlike the movie Dumb and Dumber, there is nothing humorous about these trends.

If alarm bells aren’t going off in your head by now, they should be. We are raising a generation of not-ready-for-adulthood kids who, if they stay on these trends, won’t have the intellectual or emotional maturity to cope with life even when they become “adults” chronologically.

If you have a Generation Z around your house, one thing should be screaming at you:  limit their use of smartphones (or better still, don’t cave and give them one at 11 or 12 like I now see being done). Don’t allow them to veg in their rooms for hours on end. Encourage them to get into outside activities at school. Keep them engaged.

The challenges by all of this are numerous. We may not be able to fix everything, but we can, as individuals, take the effort and time to reach out to the next generation and offer to walk beside them.

One thing that may help your mentee: be sure that the digital world is being used in a positive way in his or her life. So many in the next generation are addicted to smartphones, and you should take care to be sure that the digital world of your mentee is not out of balance.

Note: On this post and future ones, I wll start adding a section entitled RESOURCES with books that may be helpful for both mentors and parents on the topic at hand.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation is looking for mentors – men and women who are willing to dive into their lives and walk along side.  If you are not mentoring, take a chance by asking someone in the next generation if they want to get together.  You should not be surprised if they say “Yes!”.

FURTHER STUDY:  Interview of Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/13/twitter-founder-trump-presidency-short-attention-spans-evan-williams

Lower SAT scores: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/sat-scores-at-lowest-level-in-10-years-fueling-worries-about-high-schools/2015/09/02/6b73ec66-5190-11e5-9812-92d5948a40f8_story.html?utm_term=.20aa96b50a60

An article on grade inflation: http://www.businessinsider.com/grade-inflation-us-high-schools-2017-7

Research on millennial political apathy: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2010/11/23/politically-apathetic-millennials/

The Atlantic on Millennial’s and Politics: http://www.theatlantic.com/sponsored/allstate/when-it-comes-to-politics-do-millennials-care-about-anything/255/

The Atlantic article on the millennial’s lack of civics knowledge: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/09/civic-education-citizenship-test/405889/

RESOURCES:  Jean M. Twenge’s book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us can be obtained on Amazon.


The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon. Here’s a blurb on it from Barna Research:  https://www.barna.com/techwise/

WORSHIP: Listen to Hillsong sing Cornerstone where the lyrics go “Christ alone, Cornerstone, weak made strong in the Saviors’s blood.”

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.





One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof, he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful,and David sent someone to find out about her….. Then David sent messengers to get her. 2 Samuel 11: 2-4

Sooner or later, a mentor may come in contact to someone with an addiction or a habit that is self-destructive.  It might be a substance like alcohol or opioids, or it could be something like porn or an illicit sexual relationship. It could be an addiction to work, money or even the need to find approval from others.

Addictions come in all shapes and sizes, but they have something in common:  they are powerful and they often are illogical.   For most, it is a habit they can’t break. The fight might go on for years, and many battle their addiction with little hope of a good outcome. That’s true for relationship addictions, but substance addictions are similar.

For some, in the substance arena, it might be meth, although the drug of choice is alcohol. More recently, opioids have become highlighted by the media due to frequent overdoses. In some cases, the addictions are due to lax prescribing by doctors who often ignore that the prescriptions they provide for pain can be addictive.

Recently,  I had a bike accident, causing me to end up in the ER to be checked out for injuries. After being X-Rayed, they determined that I didn’t have anything serious. As I was checking out, I was given 10 Oxycodone pills “for pain.” There was no instruction or even a caution that the pills might be addictive.

The drug companies and some doctors are complicit in the opioid epidemic. Recently, a California newspaper in Sacramento found that there were counties in California where prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone and other opioids equal or exceeds the actual population of the county.

Add to the prescription opioid epidemic is the increased use of heroin, or even worse, fentanyl which is cheaper and 25 to 50 times stronger. It is the strongest opiate on the market. People addicted to opiates have turned to heroin as a cheaper alternative when prescription drugs got too expensive or difficult to procure.

As for relationship issues – affairs or addictions to sex or porn, we all face temptations. Nothing new about that. Even David gave in to temptation upon seeing Bathsheba sunbathe. But there’s a difference between being tempted and acting on it, like David did. King David may be fortunate since that there was no internet.

When it comes to dealing with temptations, I am reminded of Bill Henderson, a former marine who fought at the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.  As Bill aged into his early 90’s, his health declined to the point was unable to drive a car. His grandson often drove him around as needed.

On one occasion, his grandson asked Bill: “When does  sexual temptation end for men?”.  Bill’s response was classic: “Son, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask someone much older than me.”

Temptation is everywhere, but even more so with the advent of the internet.  There are over 24.5 million dedicated pornographic sites already on the internet.  Add to that the “hook-up” sites where women or men troll for sexual encounters, and you have ingredients for a mess.

I recently went to a retreat with about 40 young men aged between 25 and 35. Most were married.  When the topic of porn came up, I asked them if it was a problem. All of them said yes, and that they had to work hard at keeping it at bay, sometimes by just keeping their cellphones out of the bedroom.

The millennials are the first generation that have experienced internet porn which arrived with the advent of high-speed internet. As I have noted previously, it is not just a “guy” thing: 25% of porn viewing is done by women, and women represent more than half of all porn viewed on smartphones.

Porn is prevalent and reachable. Over 30,000 people are watching porn at any given second. Approximately 40 million people in the U.S. alone are sexually involved with the internet. Even as some try to avoid exposure, 20% of adults and over 80% of children get exposed to porn unintentionally.

Sadly, some medical professionals don not treat a compulsion or to view or use pornographic material as an addiction, “the signs and symptoms are often similar to those that signal an addiction to drugs or alcohol” according to an article in Keylogger Review entitled “Pornography Addiction Statistics”.

For porn and sexual purity, the statistics are telling. 41 percent of marriages include either physical or emotional infidelity by one or both spouses. 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught.

There are other addictions. Some may be addicted to the approval of others. Social media have stoked this fire and websites like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat are todays “cool” sites. Other sites may replace them tomorrow because the cool ones change quickly.

It is way beyond the scope of this post to come up with solutions to all addictions. The real point of the above is that anyone these days can become addicted to something. The root cause of most addictions is pain.  Someone has inflicted pain on us – either emotional or physical, or even relational and economic pain. The root cause of most pain is sin. We are all capable of that.

In tackling an addiction, we need to look past the symptoms to examine the source of the pain. Unless one is willing to look beyond the drug and determine what is causing the problem, there is little hope of a cure. It’s the old story for the alcoholic:  until one admits there is a problem, there is no cure.  That probably goes with most addictions.

That’s the backdrop for the next generation.  They live in a culture that has addictions all around them, and they, like you and me, are vulnerable.  The person that is most vulnerable is the one who thinks they are beyond the potential for an addiction or a moral failure.

Studies of how addictions affect the brain indicates that porn affects the brain in ways that are similar to other addictions like alcohol and drugs. (www.yourbrainonporn.com)  Studies also show that between 10 to 15% of those exposed to drugs or alcohol become addicted. Sadly, the rate of addiction to porn is much higher and 33% of men between 18-30 are worried that they are addicted.

Fortunately, there are some steps that can be taken for help. A recent book by the father of a friend of mine entitled A Craving Brain by Dr. W. Anderson Spickard shows how the study of brain science is helping improve treatment outcomes of all addictions. The co-author of the book is a recovering alcoholic.

For alcoholism, there is AA or Alcoholics Anonymous which developed the 12-step program (www.aa.org ). My wife, in support of a friend who was an alcoholic, has abstained from any alcohol for over a decade.  She is not an alcoholic, but she has felt strongly that she needed to support for one of her closest friends.  I admire her steadfast resolve to abstain for the benefit of another.

For other addictions – like porn, one of the best thing that one can do is get into an accountable relationship with a trusted friend or mentor.  Asking godly friends to support you is biblical. You can also install accountability software and filters on your computer and smartphone.

Another program, Celebrate Recovery (CR), is also an excellent tool for all kinds of addictions, including depression. It was started by Rick Warren decades ago.  A friend of mine invited me to attend a session with him. It is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous but has a more Christian focus.

You can go to their website (www.celebraterecovery.com) and locate a sponsor near you. Their site says that it is a “biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome hurts, hang-ups and habits”. At Warren’s church in Orange County, it has helped more than 17,000 people, some 70% of them being from outside the church.

At the Celebrate Recovery meeting, we encountered people with drug and substance abuse, depression and even a woman who was dealing with the aftermath of having been raped years ago. They had a small group for those suffering from sexual addictions – both porn and addictions to sex.

The challenge here is that our world is populated by people who have problems including addictions. We encounter them every day. It is useful to be able to detect what the issues are, and come alongside them to get them the help they need. As mentors, we need to be cognizant that the next generation is vulnerable to addictions.

In some cases, the solution is tough love, such as an intervention like those provided by Al-Anon (www.alanon.org) . In other cases, our role may take the form of getting the mentee resources and programs that can help them overcome their addiction.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As mentors, as we develop relationships with our mentees, we need to be probe into the mentees needs and weaknesses to see if there are addictions that need to be addressed.  Walking beside them may be the thing that helps them the most.

 FURTHER STUDY: For an article on How to Stay Sexually Pure in Marriage: How to Stay Sexually Pure in Marriage – Pastors.com

Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle, by Michael John Cusick is a book I recommend. It is available at http://www.amazon.com

For an article on the results of porn on kids: Now We Know What Porn Does to Kids – Church & Culture Blog …

For statistics on Pornography Addiction: Pornography Addiction Statistics – Keylogger | Mobile Phone Spy

For information on Opioid over-prescriptions in California: California opioid use shows regional differences | The Sacramento Bee

To get studies on the effects o pornography on the brain, go to www.yourbrainonporn.com where there is a 2015 featured video that is excellent.

A Craving Brain  by Dr. Spickard and can be purchased at Amazon:


WORSHIP:  Listen to Hillsong remind us that Christ is enough to overcome anything: CHRIST IS ENOUGH – HILLSONG LIVE LYRIC VIDEO | GLORIOUS 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right











More Millennial Trends


All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly. Proverbs 13:16

I passed on writing a post this past week – mark it up to Labor Day plus a house full of family, but more so because I was writing one on a servant leadership value – the value of creating a grace environment.  I will work on that post for the future, because I have several young men that I am mentoring that are getting increasing opportunities for leadership and they want to learn about leadership values.

My current post is more about current events – things I observe just from reading the Wall Street Journal, which often has some excellent pieces on our culture. Two of those are worth noting – I’ll let you be the judge which one is more humorous.

The first is a continuation of the phenomena that I have written about before:  the impact of the smartphone on the next generation.  Christopher Mims wrote a piece entitled “Ask Not for Whom the Doorbell Tolls. They Won’t Answer it.”  By the time I was through the article, I could envision every doorbell manufacturer going out of business the same way the buggy whip companies did with the introduction of the automobile in the 20th century.

In a recent post entitled Tolerance, I observed that the next generation – both Generation Y and Z –  both hold personal safety as a high value. Usually it is more about mental safety than physical.  So, the custom has arisen that if you are going to someone’s house, you text them.  You don’t need the doorbell.

One college sophomore at Berkley said: “he can’t remember the last time he used a doorbell or even knocked on a door.” He continues that he doesn’t feel “comfortable” and that he, like his friends, are accustomed to texting.  They don’t like the jarring sound of a doorbell.

In fact, one person said that “Doorbells are just so sudden. They are terrifying.”  OK, you can start smiling now, if you are from my generation. But this is now being described as “doorbell phobia.”  And no, I didn’t make this up.

The next generation is accustomed to communicating through devices, not actually having face to face interaction. This is called a “mediated communication” because it is through a digital device. It is a continuation of their isolation from one another, even as they sit 3 feet apart at lunch, texting one another without ever speaking to one another.

For the next generation (specifically those between the ages of 18 and 29), 92% own a smartphone according to the Pew Research Center.  That is the highest of any age group, with the lowest being those over 65 where only 42% own a smartphone.

As I have noted before, businesses are having to modify their practices. United Parcel Service now just rings the bell but doesn’t wait for a human to respond unless the delivery requires a signature. They also give customers the choice of receiving an email or text when a package is on its way.

The doorbell may not be going away any time soon, since most building codes require it, and having dealt with building codes in my law career as a commercial real estate lawyer, I can say that those codes change at a glacial pace.

The downside of this is obvious: It reinforces the already declining face-to-face interactions between the next generation.  That lack of interaction may have repercussions later as they emerge into adulthood.

As emerging adults enter the workplace, they are forced to have personal interactions, often with bad results because they don’t know how to act or speak. One businessman recently told me that his millennial employees don’t know what is appropriate communication. He cited instances where a millennial in the workplace said something that is totally inappropriate, yet was unaware that it was wrong.

I’ll leave this theme for a moment to another, which was in this mornings’ Journal. The title? “College Activists March on the Cafeteria: What Do We Want? Hydroponic Cilantro!” No, I didn’t make that up either.  While the college campus is a place to wrestle with big questions, the college age group are wrestling with whether water contains gluten.

Colleges and Universities are having to accommodate these picky eaters who want personalized menu. They also must debunk urban myths about the content of the foods they serve on campus. At the core of this trend is a generation that not only wants to make a difference, but they also believe that “a meaningful academic experience begins with what you eat.”

This trend has gotten such traction that colleges now compete to have a strong dining program to attract the best students. A University of Massachusetts survey in 2016 revealed that 70% of students at University of Massachussetts – Amherst believed that having a strong dining program is an important criterion in either “selecting a school or deciding to attend” was the quality of its food program.

One school, Virginia Tech, has gone so far as having a student dining committee to provide input on dining choices and preferences. The result is not uniform and some schools have dropped efforts to provide gardens when the student who initiated it left school and the garden withered away.

Here are two trends that are winding its way through our culture – the abandonment of the doorbell and the embracing of holistic eating on college campuses.  The doorbell isn’t going away any time soon, but I find that its obsolescence with the new generation somewhat troubling because it only furthers the isolation of this younger generation from each other.

As for the food trend on campuses, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, college administrators have caved in to student demands in other areas resulting in the limitation of free speech on campuses. Activists come and go, and the topic de jour will change with time, but when it comes to the exchange of ideas and free speech, I draw the line and say that the muffling of opposite views goes too far.

But unlike other concessions, I don’t see eating well as a trend that troubles me.  It’s a consumer driven trend where students have newer tastes and preferences, and it seems appropriate that colleges listen to those when designing a dining program.

The challenge here is to see that these generational changes of behavior and preferences is leading to institutional changes and adaptations.  Some of the changes are good; some are troubling. As mentors, we need to encourage our mentees to not be so tethered to their smartphones to the exclusion of learning  how to have interpersonal interaction.  Just the process of mentoring – meeting face to face – is a positive antidote to the digital obsession.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As mentors, one of the best things we can do is create an environment that encourages personal interaction on a face-to-face basis. Much of the digital world isolates our mentees, and they need the experience of personal interaction.

 FURTHER STUDY: The Wall Street Journal Articles:



The Pew Research on Smartphone Use:  http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

WORSHIP: Listen to Chris Tomlin sing All My FountainsChris Tomlin & Passion Band – All My Fountains – YouTube

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