Social Media and The Annual Christmas Letter

Someone’s Christmas letter from the interwebs.

For the most part I enjoy using Facebook. For the most part I enjoy receiving annual Christmas letters. You might think the two are unrelated but I think there is correlation.

Let me try to explain what I mean. Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas we usually receive a plethora of Christmas cards. They range from the “Season’s Greetings” cards that the banker and local dog catcher send out to the multi-page tome that shares the fine details of what has happened over the past twelve months. Typically it is typed up on a computer and spiced up with a few pictures so that the recipient can see how that P90x or Insanity workout has turned you into a finely toned piece of humanity.

Some people might not like those letters. Maybe some people think they seem self-serving. After all, very few people are going to include bad news like: “I fell off the dieting wagon and gained 12 pounds since last year” or “In March I took the family out for a fine dining experience. We all got chalupas and food poisoning from Taco Bell.” So in those seasonal update Christmas cards they are usually packed with exciting pictures, news of accomplishments, and a sunny sense of optimism. Maybe you’ve read one that says something like: “Harold just finished work on a 3rd Ph.D while being promoted to regional VP of a small but vibrant paper company in Scranton” or “While on our seven week vacation in Peru, we ate the most sumptuous food you could possibly imagine (see picture to left)” or “This year has brought many challenges but we faced them down like that tiger on our African safari and we look forward to facing down many more tigers in the year to come.”

So how does my enjoyment of the annual Christmas letter tie into my enjoyment of social media? Well, when it comes to social media (predominantly Facebook in this case) I like to see what my friends and family are up to. I appreciate that picture or video of someones kid doing something cute in the same way I appreciate those Christmas letter tomes. They share what is important to that person and if I really care about that person I tend to appreciate and value what is happening in their lives.

Does social media sometimes present only a part of the story? Sure it does. Not everyone is going to post on Facebook about all the difficulties they face in life just like a lot of times that information isn’t included in the annual Christmas letter. That said, if my “friends” on Facebook are my friends in real life when they post about a struggle on Facebook I genuinely care. Often times that will lead to a phone call or an email to follow up and see how they are doing.

Can someone share too much? Yeah. Can social media extend relationships that probably should have ended? Sure. But if you keep a friend list whittled down to people you actually care about. People who you would like to sit down with in real life and share a cup of coffee with and chat about all the silly things your kids are doing, then I think social media can be a really wonderful thing. Kind of like one of those annual Christmas letters only it gets updated more often.

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