Listen to meeeeeeeee

I've been working on this post for a long time, turning it over in my head, drafting, deleting, talking it over with T. I've been having a very difficult time capturing precisely and accurately what it is I want to say without sounding condescending, egotistical or whiny. I've decided now to just post what I come up with so I can get it off my chest.

No one listens to people my age. I'm not very young or very old - I'm right out of teenagedom, at twenty years old technically an adult, and I'm still noticing this. Of course it's to be expected for teenagers - I was a know-it-all teenager once, too, and I know that they really don't know it all. But this goes further than that, and I think I know the reason why.

First of all, some examples:

My mother wanted to get a kitten, so I explained to her in detail why she shouldn't get a kitten from a pet store and should instead adopt one from the SPCA. She seemed reassuringly open to the idea - "Just let me know when," I had told her, "and I'll look up some breeders in your area, if there aren't any at the SPCA you're interested in."
What does she do a few weeks later? She goes out and buys a kitten from a pet store. And then she informs me she will get her declawed - I immediately advise against it, telling her about the procedure and health implications. "Ok," she says, "I won't get her declawed." Next time I talk to her, she's had the kitten declawed. (Thankfully the kitten had no complications, although I suspect she'll have health problems in a few years because she's pet store stock.)

A friend of mine is having the same sort of problems at work. His superiors will consult him on some issue related to his expertise and then they'll completely ignore his suggestions and just go ahead with what they had planned. It's almost as if people believe that as long as they get someone's opinion they can then do what they wanted to do in the first place and not feel guilty. I rarely have adults take my advice of opinions seriously, especially so outside of a work environment.

I suspect part of the problem is confidence - I'm not a very confident person and I know that shows through. I interview terribly, I carefully avoid absolutist claims, I don't speak with authority in my voice. The thing is, it's not just me that I've seen this happen to. And there's something I've been noticing, a correlation between some interesting factors that I suspect might be the main cause:

1) The further away from academia a person is, the less likely they are to take into account other people's opinions
2) The more tech-savvy they are the more likely they are to listen and,
3) Either my own or my entire generation's values are extremely different from our parents'

Basically my entire life I've spent having smarter people teach me things - things I had no prior knowledge about! It's not a matter of pride for me - it's just how the world is. There will always be people smarter than I am, and I'm better off learning from them than being stubborn and refusing to acknowledge their expertise. I think that the farther away you get from this world the less likely you are to remember that there are smarter people around. People who stay close to academia are constantly reminded of this idea - be they students or professors, they are still constantly learning things they didn't previously know. Most of the time this knowledge comes with the help of other people. It seems the older you are and the longer you've been out of school the more egotistical you get. In my experience, at least, the stereotype of the egotistical, condescending academic is completely false.

I believe the second two points are tied in together.

I hypothesize that growing up with the internet - for I am really of the first generation to have had the internet for a significant portion of our childhood - changes how you interact with people and information. I'm so used to being able to find information on any topic I want from reliable sources. I don't just assume I am right - I am always aware that there are smarter, more educated people out there and that I can have access to their expertise. I don't consider it a positive personality trait to be stubborn and stick to a decision regardless of changes in information. Confidence is one thing; bull-headedness is another. The things that my generation values are shockingly different than the things valued by my parent's generation. I'm not saying that it's a good or bad thing, but it is certainly observable.

Someone who is well-versed in use of the Internet - far more than simple use of YouTube and eMail - is more likely to be constantly reminded of those ideas. It's the same result from different approaches - stay close to academia or stay close to the Internet and you will understand how valuable other people's opinions can actually be. If you value others' opinions you are more likely to actually listen instead of paying lip-service (ear-service?) and ignoring everything.

I can't confirm that adults who read a lot - specifically nonfiction - are less likely to dismiss others (because I don't know any adults who read anything other than the occasional romance novel) but I rather suspect it to be true.

I still feel this hasn't quite captured what I'm trying to get across - the frustration, the disappointment, the self-doubt that comes from people not respecting my informed opinions. Frustration because I put effort and pride into my knowledge, disappointment because these people are supposed to be more wise than me - yet they seem so close-minded and self-doubt because, well, it seems as if the problem is with me. As is my nature, I want to understand why this happens; why it seems to only happen with certain types of people (usually adults). In the end it does make me feel better - in both senses - recognizing that it may in fact be a personal or generational fault with these people, rather than a fault with me. Basically it just comes down to "open your mind" and don't be such an egotistical dickhead.

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"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."