Around the commonwealth and across the country proud parents are gathering to see their kids walk down the aisle in cap and gown to receive their diploma and walk into the next phase of their life.

Last week voters of both major parties nominated their candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate, Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The old song by Cliff Richard, "We Don't Talk Anymore," is an apt description of the American culture of which our graduates are a part and will now take an increasingly significant role.

We don't talk much. Our kids talk even less.

Every parent knows how much time our kids spend attached to their devices. Empirical data reveals that teens spend nine hours a day on social platforms. That's more than half their waking hours.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have replaced old-fashioned person-to-person conversations. With that went a lot of our collective ability to truly and effectively communicate.

Additionally, when we do actually "talk" these days, it's often taking past each other rather than to one another.

We've chosen to be an anonymous (see PennLive comments). We've avoided real conversations. We don't listen and aren't really sure how to effectively do it.

The latest and greatest gadgets and social media platforms have given us an era of disconnection and division in families and friendships, in the workplace and community center.

For younger people entering the increasingly rushed world of college and career, there's an opportunity to change things.

First they need to move beyond themselves. Being tethered to electronic devices is a self-absorbed activity. It takes away the ability to observe the non-verbal communication of others, the opportunity to truly listen, and the chance to be open and even vulnerable.

Seeing things that are bigger than yourself is vital to growth. You do that when the world isn't all about you.

By discovering those things, you can find your passion. That's the thing that will make your feet hit the floor in the morning raring to go and conquer the world.

Following that passion means the willingness to accept failure. Social media has helped to condition us to thinking that everything is a success. After all, folks don't generally paint pictures of themselves in their more challenging moments.

Yet the path to any success is strewn with failures and disappointments. The old adage about falling down six times but getting up seven is the key to ultimate victory.

As we've all seen, the self-absorption of social media over-focus is played out in the political world in too many ways.

The constant drumbeat from both sides of the political spectrum, delivered 24/7, has conditioned many to believe that they must accept all that they hear in order to qualify for their particular party or cause.

As a result, there's no attempt to hear the other side, much less to listen to what they have to say. That makes finding common ground nearly impossible.

The time-honored notion that "politics is the art of the possible," is obscured by the omnipresent notion that compromise is a bad word.

Our political leaders used to break bread with each other on a regular basis. It was then, sharing that very basic human experience that so many differences got settled, bridges got built and, more important, long term relationships were nurtured.

When we talk with each other we build those bridges. When we do it face-to-face we can look into the others eyes, and see the emotions that go with the words.

Those conversations are the key to success in the workplace, healthy friendships and good marriages, strong families and better communities. They're also the best way to find the common ground so lacking in our politics today.

PennLive Opinion contributor Charlie Gerow is the CEO of Quantum Communications in Harrisburg. His "Donkeys & Elephants" column appears weekly opposite progressive commentator Kirstin Snow.

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