Millennials Don't Stand A Chance

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Milennials398x239 Illustration by Thomas James

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Millennials—growing up with revolutionary technology and entering adulthood in a time of recession—have recently been much maligned. Are their critics right? Is this generation uniquely coddled, narcissistic, and lazy? Or have we let conventional wisdom blind us to their openness to change and innovation, and optimism in the face of uncertainty, which, in any generation, are qualities to be admired?

  • Brown90


    Binta Niambi Brown

    Lawyer, Startup Advisor & Human Rights Advocate

  • Campbell90


    W. Keith Campbell

    Professor of Psychology, University of Georgia &Co-Author, The Narcissism Epidemic

  • Burstein90


    David D. Burstein

    Author, Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World & Founder, Generation18

  • Grose90


    Jessica Grose

    Journalist & Author, Sad Desk Salad

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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For The Motion

Binta Niambi Brown

Lawyer, Startup Advisor & Human Rights Advocate

Binta Niambi Brown is a corporate/tech lawyer, startup advisor, human rights advocate, nascent angel investor, and bass player. After working for a technology startup, she worked exclusively on technology and internet IPOs and transactions at Cravath. She also advised senior management and corporate boards of media, technology, telecom and entertainment companies on corporate governance matters and special situations, and was a partner in Kirkland & Ellis, before taking a break to undertake innovation research at Harvard, while advising 12 different early stage technology companies. Brown has been recognized as one of The Root's 100 Most Influential African-Americans, Fortune Magazine's 40 under 40 business leaders, Crain's New York 40 under 40, and by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. She has been featured in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and on CNN, sits on a handful of advisory and philanthropic boards, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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For The Motion

W. Keith Campbell

Professor of Psychology, University of Georgia &Co-Author, The Narcissism Epidemic

W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of Georgia. He has authored more than 100 scientific articles and chapters, in addition to several books, including The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (2010) with Jean Twenge and The Handbook of Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Theoretical Approaches, Empirical Findings, and Treatments (2011) with Josh Miller. His work on narcissism has appeared in USA Today, Time, and The New York Times, and he has made numerous radio and television appearances, including on The Today Show, NPR’s All Things Considered, and The Glenn Beck Show. Campbell holds a BA from UC Berkeley, an MA from San Diego State University, and a PhD from UNC Chapel Hill, and he did his postdoctoral work at Case Western Reserve University.

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Against The Motion

David D. Burstein

Author, Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World & Founder, Generation18

David D. Burstein is a millennial writer, filmmaker, and storyteller. He is the author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World (2013) and the founder of Generation18, a nonpartisan young voter engagement organization. The organization grew out of the documentary film, 18 in '08, which he directed and produced about young voters in the 2008 election. From 2007 to 2008, Generation18 registered over 25,000 new voters and held over 1,000 events in 35 states. A frequent commentator on millennials, social innovation and politics, Burstein has appeared on CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, NPR, ABC Evening News, and C-SPAN, and in The New York Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, Politico, Salon, and The Huffington Post. He is a contributor to Fast Company, where he writes about disruptive innovation, social entrepreneurship, entertainment, and creativity. He regularly consults for not-for-profits and companies on how to understand and engage millennials.

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Against The Motion

Jessica Grose

Journalist & Author, Sad Desk Salad

Jessica Grose, a self-identified “ancient millennial,” is a journalist and novelist whose work focuses on women’s issues, family, and culture. She is a frequent contributor to Slate and Bloomberg Businessweek, in addition to writing about culture and creativity for Fast Company’s Co.Create. Previously she was a senior editor at Slate and an editor at Jezebel. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The New Republic, Cosmopolitan and several other publications. Her debut novel, Sad Desk Salad, was released by William Morrow/Harper Collins in 2012.

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

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Voting Breakdown:

48% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (10% voted FOR twice, 29% voted AGAINST twice, 9% voted UNDECIDED twice). 52% changed their minds (5% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 0% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 11% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 5% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 16% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 16% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST) | Breakdown Graphic

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    • Comment Link Frank Cheese Tuesday, 31 May 2016 15:36 posted by Frank Cheese

      The Scary Bernie Sanders Generation

      There is a generation of young people today with an attitude, perspective, and naïveté that is a few degrees short of healthy, the inner conversation of which sounds like this:

      "I've been mistreated. I'm a victim. Therefore, people owe me. I've got a chip on my shoulder. I'm actually a bit screwed up, but it's not my fault. And until someone makes things right, I actually don't have to take full responsibility for my life. I'm owed 'a pass,' because life has been hard, and my parents, siblings, god, boss, etc. have all taken things from me. I'm deeply insecure, which is why I project an air of indifference and why I'm so completely self-absorbed. My narcissism doesn't make me feel ashamed or embarrassed, as it would have in previous generations; actually, it's my friend and my pet. I secretly adore my narcissistic bent, and I love stroking my pet narcissism with countless looks at myself in the mirror/reflective store glass while sipping my pet coffee. I adore social media because I get to spend the majority of my day thinking of ways to be a cuter/cooler version of myself and ways to crack myself up.

      Politics? Yeah, I hate stupid, bigoted, racist people, which is everyone who disagrees with me. Actually, many of them are quite intelligent and not bigoted or racist at all, but I love labels, because when I label people, I can justify dismissing them and then I don’t have to think through their positions. I hate war and anything that involves not accepting others. Tolerance is one of my highest values. And I love, love, love! being in the center lane of political correctness. What that means in practical terms, for example, is that I care way more about Syrian refugees than I do about our soldiers--although I'd never actually admit that.

      We love Bernie Sanders because his political philosophy fits perfectly with my generations naïveté and narcissism. And we all have huge daddy issues, and Bernie tugs on our heart strings! What's that? Get things worked out with our real dads? Nah, that sounds too hard. I'm gonna go smoke now and then vote for Bernie and then hope it all works out. But at the end of the day, just leave me alone, because I'm all about being chill and good times! Beyond that, I just don't go there. And yes, I realize the future of our nation is in our hands. Mellow out!"

    • Comment Link The Sky Is Falling Tuesday, 15 March 2016 23:11 posted by The Sky Is Falling

      1. I think it was a little unfair to pit millennials against non-millennials in this debate. A fair debate may have been between millennials vs. millennials, or non-millennials vs. non-millennials -- or, perhaps ideally, between one millennial & one non-millennial on both sides.

      Why do I say this? First off, the current set-up generates an automatic skepticism in the audience because millennials will obviously be very biased in favor of themselves. Second, one of the non-millennial speakers in particular seemed to be a little condescending in her attitude toward the millennial speakers (intelligence-squared debaters rarely refer to each other by first name, for example). Last, the structure may have incited an personal and visceral defensiveness, I think, in the millennial debaters, which presents a psychological obstacle to objective debate.

      2. The panelists had varied motives in participating in the debate. The male "for the motion" that millennials have no chance seemed to simply offer a critique or a complaint that did not have a deeper political purpose. His arguments were consistently vague and unsubstantiated. And because of this, he sounded a little bit like the old man complaining about teenagers with purple hair: just the usual inter-generational prejudice and ignorance.

      The female debater "for the motion" seemed to have more of a caring purpose: she wanted to "raise awareness" about all of the terrible problems that millennials face and the very bleak situation that she argues especially exists for historically oppressed millennials. Well-intentioned, maybe, but I found her to be incredibly disempowering. If empowerment of struggling millennials was her goal, she definitely didn't reach it in this debate. Telling someone that they have no hope is one of the most disempowering statements that you can make.

      The millennials, meanwhile, were of course arguing for their own potential, accomplishments, and future. I think that the female debater was stronger, but she spoke far less. I did not feel that the panelists were able -- given the setup, the tendency of the male debater to talk too much, and the psychological obstacles outlined above -- to do justice to the potential of the millennial generation.

      3. I also think that intelligence-squared did a disservice to this emerging generation in setting up the debate the way that it did. I will admit my own bias as an 'elder millennial' who is a teacher to 'young millennials,' and my outrage at this debate more arises from the thought of 'young millennials' in their upper teens or early 20's facing even more self-doubt and confusion about their purpose than they already do. To them I would say, don't listen to anyone who intensifies your anxiety or your despair, especially those who do so out of a spirit of contempt rather than one of caring. Anyone "for the motion" that you have no hope doesn't know you, doesn't understand you, and doesn't know what you're capable of. We ARE a global generation, we are a passionate generation, we are a skilled generation, we are a determined generation, we are an organized generation, we are a progressive and inclusive generation, and yes, we have trouble reading long articles or listening to hour-long debates, and we could stand to mix more & learn more from people who don't have the same backgrounds we do (though, as a member of the burgeoning biracial population in the US, I have never understood this concept of social homogeneity), but we cannot let the simplistic labels, prognoses, and opinions of other people erode our purpose. We are a generation with a mission. Seek that mission, build it hour after hour -- as you are doing already, every day -- & prove these labels wrong.

    • Comment Link Bones Sunday, 21 February 2016 22:36 posted by Bones

      Millennials are turning the US into the mess Europe is in with the political correctness being SJW's.

      You don't own homes because you don't work hard to get one. You think you're too good for an American car, let alone a used car you might be able to afford. You want to be CEO right out of college. You whine and complain. You think your opinions are on PAR with your seniors who have more experience. You disdain authority.

      Not all Millennials of course, but many.

    • Comment Link Micah Wednesday, 27 January 2016 21:30 posted by Micah

      Thoughts on generalities:
      On a topic such as this, empirical evidence for each side would be either rare or speculative. In lack of empirical facts, this debate demands each side to speculate, and therefore, it is a battle of wits to critique the oppositions side. Speculation in this case might force each side to generalize at a minimum degree, such as "millennials are selfish". The generalization proposes to the audience that a new trend has arisen, and the opinions of the audience may become strengthened or weakened based on the presentation of that argument. However, there is a ceiling to generalizing; "millennials are more worried about capturing the perfect selfie over being productive outside of media" (paraphrased) is an example of a generalization over stepping the grounds of intellectual debate.

      Thoughts on the presentation of each side:
      FOR brought up a few valid points, but they also focused on de minimus abstracts that didn't really support their side. The audience seemed to latch onto this, forgetting that FOR didn't really present an argument, they just mentioned a few vague examples that- at best- seemed true. FOR struggle to connect their critiques to the doom of millennials.

      AGAINST didn't really seems to have much room for defeating the proposition since the opponents seemed as though they were mostly defending their own generation versus supporting the central claim. Regardless of the elements from the opponents, AGAINST still proposed that they are optimistic, and therefore, fight for prosperity. They also brought up the idea of innovating on the technological platform. AGAINST had at least two very concrete and productive arguments while FOR barely presented anything.

      Thoughts on the overall debate:
      The original proposition is flawed in what became the definition of a millennial. The best definition of a millennial seems to be agreed on that millennials are the first to graduate in the new millennium, which is just moving the goalpost. A familial generation spans 20-30 years, so each generation can differ by a ten year variance. Why then, when we look at societal generations do we not account for at least a ten year variance overlap between generations? I would argue that the definition of "millennials" is not 'those born after 1980, but rather those born after 1995 as the children born after 1995 will primarily experience the well-developed technological era that gave way to the age of information under Moore's Law. They will [always] have had high speed internet and access to more resources via the world wide web than what the generations before them had at age five. They were barely old enough to remember 9/11, or they will not remember it at all. This means that generation X would span approx. from 1965 to 1995, and the definition of Gen-X would be less dependent on arbitrary and argumentative conveniences.

      I was born in 1987, and I'd like to participate in the re-debate when I- as a nearly 30 year-old accountant- will argue the "proposition "millennials don't stand a chance" against a ten-year-old. [That was a joke; you can laugh.]

    • Comment Link airjordan23 Monday, 15 December 2014 14:40 posted by airjordan23

      Never have i heard the term millennials and thought of myself. Before watching this I thought that millennials stood a chance in this world, but after watching the debate I couldn't help but become neutral about this topic. I would like to think that I stand a chance in this world but I definitely see now how the odds are against me and any of my millennials friends. I thought that each speaker made good points during the debate and that it was a well organized debate. All upcoming and current millennials have difficulties that they have to face but so does everybody else.

    • Comment Link Baseballf2 Thursday, 11 December 2014 22:37 posted by Baseballf2

      Although this debate was not orchestrated to the best of its ability I feel like there was still some valuable information to take away from it as well as how to present your argument. For example, Binta Brown was very organized and structured in her argument when not focusing solely on one point but attacking the topic of millennials from all angles. I learned a very effective way to perform a debate simply by watching this video. My opinion on the topic “Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance” is that I lean more towards the disagree side. I’m aware of the valid argument on the other side but I feel that as a whole the millennial generation has been categorized far too quickly. If this debate were to take place 5 years from now people could be more accurate since a majority of the generation would then be of age to categorize. Aside from that the video was still very educational and a great piece that was shared in my English 101 class.

    • Comment Link bassmaster Thursday, 11 December 2014 20:47 posted by bassmaster

      After watching the debate I was a little disappointed with how the topic was presented. I feel that the motion Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance is not a far statement. Of course they stand a chance and yes they must succeed otherwise what, it end. I thought that Binta was playing the race card way too much and trying to make an over-killed issue out it. Campbell claim that Millennials are narcissistic and over optimistic I feel was just a generalization of a stage that most all young adults iron out as they grow and mature. I don’t feel that Millennials are any different than Gen x, Baby Boomers in this regard other than being equipped with different toys and methods to express themselves.

    • Comment Link Jacob39 Thursday, 11 December 2014 18:36 posted by Jacob39

      I watched this debate in my ENG 101 class and after seeing both sides of the argument of whether or not the Millennial generation stands a chance or not, as well as some research of my own, I have come to the conclusion that the Millennial generation does stand a chance. Both sides of the argument had facts and stats that strengthened their argument and they also had a few that hindered their own side. The side that believed this generation doesn't stand a chance kept making points about how they are all selfish and not prepared for the world they are entering. Well not all of them are selfish. I guarantee that all the other generations had just as many selfish people as this generation does. Even if this generation is not prepared for the real world, is that really their fault? Shouldn't the blame go to the generation before them that put them in this mess and did not raise them to be prepared for it?
      But I don't even know why it matters or not if this generation stands a chance. I'm sure this question was raised for past generations as well and the same issues came up and all of those generations became their own. They left their own mark and it doesn't matter because that is exactly what the Millennial generation is going to do.

    • Comment Link Jason M. Thursday, 11 December 2014 13:01 posted by Jason M.

      My perception on millennials and careers falls into there own faults, what I mean by this is that there has to be a more analytical way that we can ensure that occupations will be needed. The very thinking of imaging if we can go into any occupation and secure a job that will be there till we retire is insane, what IO believe millennials should be doing is analyzing the playing field and try to find an occupation that will always be there. For example health care people will always do stupid things and always get sick, or even the auto industry especially with large economies there will always be a need for transportation however these jobs aren't just left to the those that want to get down and dirty there is a wider spectrum.

    • Comment Link WhyaHorseofCourse Thursday, 11 December 2014 13:00 posted by WhyaHorseofCourse

      As a millennial, I have to say that I am disappointed in how we’re forming and becoming as a society of millennials. Millennials need to realize that we’re setting the bar for the next generation; we’re role models for the next generation of America and we need to act like it. My generation is failing. It’s created a society where even high school education isn’t a priority. Individuals that have a high school education has decreased from forty three percent in 1965 to a low twenty six percent of millennials obtaining a simple and basic high school education (Pew Research). How can a generation grow, learn, and thrive with not even having a basic education? How can a generation expect to succeed when even obtaining a high school diploma is on the downtrend. The statistics are against millennials and future generations. I do not believe millennials are doomed or never going to make it. We have the option of picking ourselves up, but honestly if trends like these and societal dysfunction and the breakdown of civic institutions continue, then yes we are doomed. It’s like a bad epigenetic that is being created for America and the future generation.

    • Comment Link Mikayla Thursday, 11 December 2014 01:48 posted by Mikayla

      When I had to watch this debate in an English class I at first didn’t understand what a millennial was. From watching I discovered a millennial is a person born in the 80’s and 90’s and whom reaches adulthood in the 2000’s. I will however have to say that I don’t understand the point of this debate. To me, it didn’t even seem like a debate. There may be a topic, Millennials Don’t Stand A Chance, but it didn’t seem like it was organized/structured enough to have argumentative sides. I don’t understand why millennials are a generation that is made up to be such a big deal. My perspective on this topic is still unclear. I think if both sides of the conversation weren’t so wishy washy as far as millennials being able to make it or not, it would have been a semi-decent debate. From my own research, I have been able to understand the topic of millennials a little more so I was able to compose a paper and input my own unique perspective. I chose the perspective on whether or not millennials were to blame for obesity because they are unknowledgeable about health. From my research one of the more interesting facts that I found is that statistics show one third of millennials will be, if they not already are, diabetic and millennials with unhealthy children should not expect them to live longer than they will. The main point of my paper is that millennials may not have learned about health from their parents but they should have the initiative to learn about it for the better good of themselves and their children. It’s up to them to change their lives instead of following in this reputation other generations have stereotyped about them.

    • Comment Link trev41 Wednesday, 10 December 2014 23:23 posted by trev41

      I am still on the motion that millennials do not stand a chance. Brown and Campbell were able to give out multiple stand points that the millennials don't stand a good chance. As opposed to Grose and Burstein not really making valid arguments throughout.

    • Comment Link awnuhlee Wednesday, 10 December 2014 22:56 posted by awnuhlee

      Being witness to the most stereotypical Millennial Generation offspring, my sister, has resulted in me having a negative view on the generation of people her age. I thought that it was just all people who were in their mid 20’s that were unmotivated and overly optimistic, but the evidence that Binta Niambi Brown and W. Keith Campbell revealed helped me to realize it is a problem for only this generation. While I love my sister and frankly most millennials for their positive attitudes and frugal beliefs, it was easy for me to side with the debaters that were proving that millennials don’t stand a chance. The evidence is clear; The generations is full of people that were brought up in a coddled world with too much turmoil to take care of, and they simply don’t have the tools to fix it. Therefor, it will not be this generation that will save our country, but they will help in raising another generation that will.

    • Comment Link Justin W Wednesday, 10 December 2014 20:59 posted by Justin W

      The upcoming millennial generation definitely has challenges to face if it is going to survive. Just like many generations that have come before, the millennials have grown up shadowing their parents, who have most definitely survived as a generation. I believe that bashing upon the millennials isn't a good idea because they too will eventually be in the higher positon such as the position that the baby boomers are in. The millennials are said to have too high of hopes, but in reality, millennials are already performing spectacular duties such as creating Facebook. With higher college tuition and expenses, Millennials are finding ways to work several jobs still being able to socialize and search their news feed. Millennials have the ability to save and use their money wisely at a young age, just imagine where they will be when they are grandparents.

    • Comment Link Holland Oats Wednesday, 10 December 2014 18:52 posted by Holland Oats

      I’m not entirely satisfied with how the question of narcissism was handled in the debate; there was no consensus on the definition. W. Keith Campbell seems to be arguing from the position that narcissism is a spectrum ranging from the mild and innately human to the severe and pathological, and that the severity of narcissism has increased among millennials due to various societal factors such as social media. Jessica Grose appears to view narcissism as a black and white condition that you either have or don’t have. She asserts that posting “a pretty selfie” doesn’t qualify narcissism, but that’s not really what Keith was arguing. The captions, the context of the photo, and how frequently they update determine where a person falls on the spectrum. Posting a picture of yourself with a caption like “Feeling good today!” is one thing, posting a picture of yourself holding a wad of cash with the caption “High life, haters gonna hate” is another. Part of the problem is the pejorative nature of the word narcissist; it’s only natural for a person default to virtuous terms like bold, confident, or self-assured when describing themselves and negative terms like narcissistic, egotistical, or arrogant when judging others, even though these terms are virtually synonymous apart from their connotations. Personally I don’t think what Keith suggests is all that unreasonable but it’s more of a philosophical question than a scientific one.

    • Comment Link Amber Tuesday, 09 December 2014 22:04 posted by Amber

      I would have to agree with some of the others that say that every generation thinks that they are better than the previous ones. But that is one of the issues here. Two millennials argue against the motion and two non-millennials argue for it. It just shows that most people are really worried about how their generation is doing not the ones before or after them. In fact, Binta almost says there are ways to help millennials succeed when asked a question, but quickly takes it back. So the only ones that can help the millennials are the millennials themselves and without drive to do so they are ultimately in trouble.

    • Comment Link Tyler Tuesday, 09 December 2014 12:54 posted by Tyler

      I believe that millennials do stand a very good chance at not only surviving in today's world but thriving in it. We are born into a technology rich world giving us a great advantage in any technology rich field. Plus our innovative ideas from our entrepreneurs will provide many jobs for generations to come.

    • Comment Link Bianka Gonzalez Monday, 01 December 2014 12:29 posted by Bianka Gonzalez

      Every generation will argue they are better off. Every generation has a higher sense of worth then the last, mostly due to changes in values and moral standards. My grandparents had a hard time accepting what was "in" society with their children, just like my parents have a hard time accepting what is "in" now.
      It a constant push and pull; generations defend against those that threaten their traditions and ways of life. But life is in constant change; for Generation X to expect us to be just like them and have standards as they did is narcissistic and immature, not to mention naïve. I will label myself a hypocrite if I am ever to mock or critique the generation after me because of their resilience against my traditional upbringing.
      It is a constant flow of change, and to consider this change as not being "able to stand a chance" for our future in the US (because I imagine all these statistics were in reference to the US millennials' ) is hypocritical and downright narcissistic.

    • Comment Link Nick Friday, 14 November 2014 12:40 posted by Nick

      I thoroughly enjoy listening to IQ squared podcasts during my daily commute, but have never felt compelled to comment on an online discussion. Chewing on the debates within my own head has always been satisfactory enough. Then I listened to this ill-conceived debate, hence my compulsion to comment.
      First of all, the motion makes absolutely no sense. It is incredibly ironic for gen-xers to argue the motion that millennials do not stand a chance in a society that gen-xers adamantly take credit for creating. The side arguing for the motion failed to present a logical argument I think in part, because the motion was poorly constructed, but also because they presented zero evidence that millennials are destined to fail. Ms. Brown’s argument that millennials lack the maturity level of previous generations for reasons such as not owning a house, not choosing to produce the traditional “baby boomer family unit”, and not getting married by an adequate age are all misrepresentations of what constitutes maturity.
      How about measuring maturity in terms of what a practical choice would be given a person’s social and financial disposition? Saying a blanket, one size fits all statement like “your generation is immature because they are not capable of raising a child as soon as they should be” is not only illogical but evidentially insufficient. Simply because a millennial chooses not to have kids or to be married “soon enough” is not evidence enough that the millennial is incapable of succeeding at either choice.
      Are x-geners so ego-centric that they think millennials will aimlessly hold onto their irrational ideals and values while our society changes at an astounding rate? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that current societal values should be different from those of forty years ago, but apparently it takes a millennial.

    • Comment Link Molly Wednesday, 22 October 2014 16:25 posted by Molly

      I do think that Millennials stand a chance because they have social skills that the next generation will not have because they did not grow up with technology and they were able to hold actual conversations and interact with people in person. Nowadays, technology has made it so easy to talk over the computer or phone that no one really talks in person anymore.

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