O·ta·ku /ō·tä·ko͞o/– Noun (from Japanese): A youth whose obsession with computers and other aspects of pop culture are a detriment to their social skills.
If someone calls you otaku, are they putting you down, or giving you a compliment? Like always, context is king. When English speakers use the Japanese word, they often simply mean someone who is deeply knowledgeable about manga (a style of graphic novel). But in Japanese, the word points to an obsession with the sort of pop culture that can be unhealthy, and a lack of social skills.
Do the Japanese have it right? The more hours we spend on technology – even communicating with others through technology – means the fewer hours we have left to spend with others, person-to-person. The sense of disconnection in American culture is nothing new, and social capital has been declining in the USA since 1950 as was pointed out by the author of Bowling Alone, in 1995, and it’s old news that social media hasn’t lived up to its promise to knit us together.
Some suggest that “the inability to connect with others, form friendships and resolve conflicts can lead to more failure and distress for students than academic problems can,” and that “social inability can be a lifelong problem.”1 The good news is that skills such as greetings, initiating conversation, listening for understanding, previewing (understanding your impact before you act), empathizing, reading social cues, problem solving, and apologizing, can be taught.
Technology is here to stay, so the question is how to best help youths gain the social/emotional skills they need, moving forward through life. The Pastor Fish CD and app resources intentionally take steps in this direction, and we are forever supplementing our in-class additional materials in this regard.
1Lawson, Candy. Social Skills & School. Center for Development and Learning. Online at http://www.cdl.org/articles/social-skills-and-school/ and accessed May 24, 2018.