People in the newer generations, or the so-called Gen Z, no longer understand traditional gestures, from imitating a phone call to requesting a note at a restaurant.
Do we thus lose a part of our cultural heritage or do we move towards another body language, with the evolution of technology?
Fortunately, linguists have identified the problem, or let’s call it the cause: Generation Z has no lived experience of the technology on which these gestures are based.
“Devices specific to certain devices will only be recognized by those who are familiar with such devices,” says foreign language expert Prof Vyv Evans.
Our devices and gestures change with them
Recently, a TikTok video by New Yorker Daniel Alvarado went viral after he filmed his two children using a gesture that mimics a flat slap to mimic talking on the phone.
That’s not quite like the gesture we know, is it? Raise your hand to your head with your little finger extended to your chin and your thumb to your ear.
But what could it look like? Most people in the new generations have never seen – or maybe only seen in the old movies you watch – the object you are trying to suggest, mimicking it.
Phones no longer look the way you knew them to, and although you use the same smartphones as your children, the old gesture has been preserved.
“The idea with gestures is that they are culture-specific and therefore mean different things to different socio-economic or generational groups,” says Evans.
This is just a more complicated way of saying it. But the reality is that, in general, language changes.
From newly invented words, to things that didn’t even exist in the past – think if you could have said a few decades ago that you go to the hypermarket or scuba diving – and even to words borrowed from other languages for technology, things it changes.
For example, you say that you are updating your smartphone software and not that you are updating your internal smartphone programs.
In addition to verbal language, body language also changes, and the gestures and facial expressions you use now will probably disappear with the disappearance from the collective mass memory of the very objects you imitate.
Finally, technology has an impact on all aspects of life, and this requires an effort to keep up even in daily activities.