It's a big topic for me this year because, for the first time since I was an adult, I'm not sending any. There's too much going on this year, which means that the third of you too far down the list alphabetically that haven't gotten my cards in recent years now know I send them, but that you didn't make the cut. As for the other two-thirds, sorry that now you don't make the cut either.
The truth is that even in other years, I've found Christmas cards an overwhelming task. I want to tell everyone exactly what we're up to, which makes merely stuffing a picture of the kids into an envelope seem awfully impersonal. On the other hand, updating everyone in the way I'd like to is -- from a time perspective -- utterly impossible. Christmas cards get layered on top of too many other holiday season obligations to get their due.
Which is why I say, in this season of religious observance, thank God for social media. It's already making me feel not quite as bad about not sending cards because I know that I'm in touch with many more friends from my past and present than I was even a year ago. The system could use some improvement, since my Mom isn't yet on Twitter, and for whatever reason, Facebook hasn't yet suggested that I friend any of my cousins. However, the way things are going, I probably won't need Christmas cards, instead replacing them in future with YouTube Christmas greetings, the Taylor/Farrell family Christmas blog, and, maybe this year, a simple tweet/status update that declares, "I'm not sending cards this year, but happy holidays anyway." Let social networks be my distribution! No more Santa stamps for me!
But seriously, though, I do wonder whether social media will be what really kills the Christmas card tradition. I've been thinking about this over the last few days not only because I decided not to send any, but also becausethis Monday I was reading story from Time magazine heralding, "The Beginning of the End for Christmas Cards." I started reading the story thinking it was going to point out what I did above -- that catching up with people only once a year is no longer necessary. Instead, it posited that the reason sending out Christmas cards was a dying tradition was because of the economy and because they aren't green (excusing the occasional depiction of a Christmas tree). Though e-cards are certainly mentioned, the impact of the ongoing connections we all have through social media was not. To me, that's a hole in contemporary trend analysis you could drive a sleigh through.
Please don't tell my Mom, but I think my Christmas card mailing days are over. By this time next year, the legions of friends connected to me through social media will have grown, and if it hasn't happened already, someone will develop a Facebook Christmas card app that groups friends and relatives by holiday greeting-worthiness and helps you create a "Happy holidays" card with the click of a mouse. Rather than putting our friends' analog Christmas cards in a stack and then trying to figure out what to do with them, we'll just park digital versions in the cloud. Perfect.
Thank you, social media -- my days of Christmas card-related White Anglo-Saxon Protestant guilt are almost over -- and, yes, Virginia, in case you were wondering, there is White Anglo-Saxon Protestant guilt.
(Editor's note: Cathy would like to do a year-end social media predictions for 2010 column with your input. Please email your prediction to her at firstname.lastname@example.org with "social media prediction" in the subject header by Monday, Dec. 21st.)