Parents and kids: Missives and feeds

October 26, 2010
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When I went away to college, I tried to write my parents a letter every week. This letter was a crafted editorial product. It was an official position paper on my status. I didn’t include much about my fears or failures. If I had a lonely Saturday night, they probably didn’t learn about it. I stuck mostly to the things they’d like to hear.

When I went away to college, I tried to write my parents a letter every week. This letter was a crafted editorial product. It was an official position paper on my status. I didn’t include much about my fears or failures. If I had a lonely Saturday night, they probably didn’t learn about it. I stuck mostly to the things they’d like to hear.

If you look at parents of college students today, many of them are getting streams of data updates. They text, talk on cell-phones. Some are friends on Facebook.
In these relationships, parents who want to know how their kid is doing must grapple with much more data. They have to devise their own filters and tune their analysis. (He might have sounded depressed, but he hadn’t gotten more than an hour of sleep on Friday night…) It’s a lot more work, because, in essence, the editorial duties have been shifted from the data producer–the kid–to the parents. The kid provides feeds. It’s up to them to crunch the data and make sense of it….nbsp;
This is the same thing that’s happening in news. We’re going away from single editorial products into a world of feeds, where it’s up to us to shape our own vision of what’s going on in the world….nbsp;
When it comes to far-away children, there’s something I like about the old-fashioned letter-a-week relationship. Yes, it leaves out a lot of details. But it lets them create their own narrative. If it’s positive, they’re not asking for help. If it’s negative, they might be. It’s not that complicated. The positive narratives, like the ones I sent my parents, might leave out some of the messier aspects of life. But that’s OK. As long as the other evidence doesn’t contradict their line, I’ll happily settle for their edited version. I have too many feeds in my life as it is….nbsp;