Sunday, December 19, 2010

Social media usurps the Christmas letter

For the past five years, since moving to California, we've written a long and detailed Christmas letter, sharing stories of life in our adopted country, adventures with new friends, complete with pictures of the year's events. Some recipients tell me when our card and letter arrives they brew a pot of tea, or cup of coffee and settle in for a good read, as the stories of our past year unfold. One sitting, one static event, driven by the specific point in time coinciding with the arrival of a hard copy letter. This year we didn't write a letter, and while I can come up with any number of excuses as to why (a serious illness in the family, a busy stressful year at work, the exciting arrival of a new grand baby, the loss of our dear cat Jack, the usual heavy travel schedule, and many other countless complications of daily life) I think there may actually be "game changing" reason why.

Social media has usurped the traditional Christmas letter!

Our year has unfolded and been memorialized in Facebook posts, blog entries, and the occasional Tweet ... Yes, social media has usurped our Christmas letter this year. So, just like so many other things in life that are more immediate, like the 24/7 news cycle, our "Christmas" letter unfolded in real time throughout the year in posts, status updates, tagged photos, and tweets, consumed as and when you wanted it, over a coffee, as you sat in traffic, got your nails done, or waited at the doctor's office. On your time, however and whenever you wanted it. Just like everything else in the world today - there when you want it, and not when you don't.

Far from being a traditionalist, I firmly believe things are never going to be the way they were before so many societal shifts and the world-changing events of the past couple of years. And I'm thankful for that!

But there is a certain art of the letter that gets lost in all this evolution and forward-looking change. Take my 75-year old mother, who for countless years made herself a cup of coffee and sat down to write her sister a letter every Sunday. Aunty Vi passed away last week, and I'm sure at some point today there was a space in my mom's day where she wondered what to do with herself. Perhaps that explains why I received three emails from her! She's hit the real time just like the rest of us.

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