Coffee Break: Social anxiety and millennial mobsters

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 18, 2021 - October 24, 2021.
Coffee Break: Social anxiety and millennial mobsters
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As more of the population is vaccinated and pandemic restrictions are loosened, people are slowly re-emerging from their cocoons. For many, this means returning to the office and socialising with people we have not seen in person for months, or maybe even more than a year.

Like it or not, our personal journeys may have varied widely over the past 19 months or so. Will we ever revert to the persons we were before March 18, 2020? Not so soon, probably.

The pandemic has made small talk — even talking about the weather — more painful, especially for social introverts, never mind making deeper connections.

For instance, I recently met a couple of friends whom I had not seen in ages. Although so much had changed and taken place in our lives since our last gathering, and we had a lot to catch up on (or so we thought), we ended up talking all night about things that were directly or indirectly related to Covid-19.

“When did you get your vaccine? Are you Team Pfizer, AZ or Sinovac?”

“Are you still working from home? When are you going back to the office?”

“Wah, cases are spiking again/Phew, cases have been declining lately.”

The lockdown has made us forget how to converse and, sometimes, it just seems like we have run out of things to talk about. To make things worse, we cannot even read someone’s facial expressions as we are often masked, only revealing our eyes.

But, hey, there is no shame in admitting that you are suffering or dealing with social anxiety. Trust me, you are not alone.

It was recently reported that the old school New York mob bosses are reluctant to hand over the reins to millennial gangsters because of their deep attachment to technology. It is said that the new generation of mobsters are cappuccino-sipping, avocado toast-eating hipsters, and not the iron-fisted old guard of the golden age.

According to various news reports, the top organised crime bosses believe that the millennial mobsters have gone soft as they prefer sending texts to pistol-whipping. Like many of us, this new breed of baddies is usually obsessed with smartphones and, therefore, less inclined to brutality. They would rather be engaged on social media than breaking someone’s face — cue the theme songs of The Godfather, Goodfellas, Peaky Blinders and The Sopranos.

In court documents about a recent extortion plot in New York, one associate of the Colombo crime family sent a union official a text message with an ominous warning: “Hey, this is the second text, there isn’t going to be a third.”

Last month, alleged Colombo consigliere Ralph DiMatteo was forced to hand himself in over a federal racketeering case a day after his son tweeted a photo of him relaxing in a Florida pool.

Remember the horse’s head and the dead fish in The Godfather? Just imagine such messages being sent via text messaging with an emoticon or a cute emoji.

Can you envisage Don Vito Corleone, portrayed by Marlon Brando, saying he was going to make someone an offer he could not refuse — via email?

Or Jimmy Conway, portrayed by Robert De Niro, demanding his money from Morrie by uploading a post on social media with the hashtag #IWantMyMoney, instead of choking him with a phone cord?

Or O-Ren Ishii, portrayed by Lucy Liu, warning other Yakuza leaders not to insult her family heritage in a virtual meeting, instead of saying this to their face?

Perhaps like the millennial mobsters, we need to learn how to reconnect with people and manage the social awkwardness.

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