Parents love to hear about their kids’ lives. Kids, especially teens, don’t always love to share.
How was your day? Fine.
What did you do at school? Went to class.
Who did you sit with at lunch? Friends.
St. Paul mom Stephanie Ross found a way around those frustrating exchanges with a dinnertime game she called High Low Glitter. When the family sat down to eat, everyone had to share the best part of their day, the worst part of their day and one surprising thing from the day — the high, the low and the glitter.
It worked. So much so that she missed it when her twin girls, now 20, went off to college. Sure, there were Facebook status updates, but it wasn’t the same.
Her solution? Make a High Low Glitter smartphone app and website.
“Now we continue to share our highs, lows and glitters whenever and wherever we are,” Ross wrote on the High Low Glitter website.
But it isn’t just another wide-open social network for oversharing. High Low Glitter users’ “connections” are capped at seven other people. It doesn’t matter if they are family members or friends, but the number is limited. Think digital dinner table, not digital cocktail party.
“We really want it to be small,” Ross said. “The more people you add, the story changes.”
Each post on High Low Glitter, shared with all connections simultaneously, must include something for all three categories. Can’t think of a low point? That’s OK, but you have to say that. Any replies to the post, say from a father to a son, are kept between those two users.
“It’s very closed instead of open,” said Ted Zuhlsdorf, Ross’ husband and co-founder of the app. “It’s the anti-Facebook. I’m aiming for an intimate experience with depth.”
So far, there are a few hundred users of the digital versions of High Low Glitter. The app is free for iOS and an Android version is in the works, but anyone can use the website.
Kimberly Bonde, a friend of Ross’ from Decatur, Ga., has been using the High Low Glitter app to keep in touch with her daughter Kendra, 17, who is in Colorado for a summer internship.
“I feel like we’re actually corresponding with each other, which feels really different to me than going on Facebook,” said Bonde, who shares her high, low and glitter moments, too.
She recently posted that her “high” was playing Frisbee with the dog in the back yard. It was a simple moment, not one that Bonde had planned on mentioning otherwise.
“When I talked to [Kendra] a few days later, she actually said something about it,” Bonde said. “It was nice.”
Ross’ daughter Emily Upin said the strength of High Low Glitter — around the dinner table or by app — is that it leads to further conversation.
“It’s kind of like a steppingstone to more stories,” Upin said. “We say it’s a game, and it is a game, but it’s also a really good tool that I’m glad [my mom] used on us.”
She finds that the online version is more like a journal because each day’s entry is saved and can be reviewed later. It also keeps her alert for the little moments each day she’d like to savor — without her smartphone.
“Using High Low Glitter, I’ve noticed a lot of the ‘glitters’ or the ‘highs’ have been interactions with other people,” Upin said. “Even though it is an app online, it’s an app for your family. Get your head out of the tech. Use it for what you should use it for, but pay attention to those around you, because they’re important.”