Information Overload and the Death of Email: What We Can Learn from Our Kids

In order to communicate with your children when they go off to college or trek out on their own, you need to find a way to communicate with them on their terms. The ways that younger people (the newer generations) stay in contact with each other is through, instant messages, texting, and face book type sites.  Let go of the need to control the situation, put it into their hands and eventually you might just be communicating more than you ever had in the past.  What we can learn from our kids is that in a world of information overload, they have found ways to deal with it by eliminating it because with their methods of communication there is no need to check multiple accounts, to check multiple social and business networks or to keep a record of all of these things’ passwords, logins, folders, and logs.

When my kids went off to college, I was worried, as all parents are, if they were ready to embrace today’s world and not by consumed by it. I found comfort in the fact that their schools were providing them with email accounts and that I had provided them with cell phones with endless minutes. “How did my parents ever get along while I was away at school without instant access to me?” I wondered, but was quite grateful for the technological conveniences that today’s world offered to them (and to me!).

It took me a while to learn the ‘rules’ of communicating with young people who were stretching their wings of newfound independence.

I had to call around dinner time, because this is when they were most likely to be able to accept my calls – mornings were definitely out – anything before noon is much too early in the day to interact or respond to an unsolicited phone call; afternoons were unacceptable, because they were either attending class or studying; late nights (for me 8 – 10 PM) were a no-no because they were most likely engaged in social time.

The emails I sent were expected to be brief and not contain too many calls-to-action. Links were totally out of bounds, because that would require too much thoughtful effort on their parts.

I thought I had this set of laws down pat, until one day when my voice messages and emails started to go unanswered. What went wrong?

It took me a while to figure things out, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was trying to communicate with them on my terms, not theirs.

After all, the telephone and emails are big parts of both my business and personal life. I prided myself on being not only efficient, but aware of the time demands on others. I was good at communicating.

But I wasn’t meeting my kids’ needs. How could I change my ways?

I needed to examine how my children were communicating. How did they correspond, and stay in touch, with their friends and contemporaries?


The way today’s younger generation ‘talks’ is through IMing, texting, and hanging out on Facebook. And I needed to adapt. They’re a part of the Thumb Generation.

So I did. Although I fought signing up for an AIM account, I finally broke down and got one. I was capable of text messaging, but I didn’t like it. Why not? Because I was slow at it and my fat thumbs seemed too big for the tiny keys on my phone. I opened a Facebook account.

What kind of reception did I receive from my children? At first they balked. Although they never said it, I sensed that they felt that I was spying on them and stalking them.

But after a while, a wonderful thing happened. I let go of my need to control communications with my kids. I did things their way, and guess what – we ‘talked’ more than we ever had before.

What do I take away from this experience besides the luxury of maintaining relationships with my kids? I think we can all learn from our children, often times in the strangest of places.

Although we all read about the death of email, in practical terms I think our kids have figured things out. With IMs, text messages, and Facebook, they have found an ingenious way to deal with the information overload of today’s 24/7 world. They have eliminated information overload instead of trying to organize it or consume it – something I was trying to do with email and voicemails.

With their methods of communicating, there’s no need to check multiple email accounts, multiple social and business networks, and keep records of all of the aforementioned logins, passwords, and folders and logs.

Once again, I have learned something valuable from my kids.

Have you decreased your use of the telephone and email? How and why? Please tell us what you think below.

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