Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas cards or Facebook pokes?

After a several year hiatus, we sent out some Christmas cards this year. No particular reason for not sending them in years past, just the typical excuses of not getting around to it, not getting pictures developed in time, feeling awkward sending them out in April, etc…

It seemed like we were getting fewer cards in the mail ourselves this year, and at first I attributed it to the lack of our reciprocation for the last few years. However, it seems to be a national trend. The Washington Post chronicles this movement in their 2009 Holiday Guide section, so now perhaps I don't feel so bad, hearing that it's not just us! But is it a sign of the current lackluster economy, or of a larger shift in behaviors?

Looking at my kids, and most anyone under 25 with a Facebook account, they probably have several hundred 'friends', who get updates from them on a regular basis, see photos of them within hours of the snapshots being taken, and probably know more about their day to day lives than I do about my own relatives. Gone are the days where your only communication from a far-flung friend is their annual Christmas card, with accompanying picture of the kids and of course the family newsletter. (Come to think of it, perhaps it's 'good riddance' to the family newsletter!)

Here are some revelations that come to mind:

- for some whom I've reconnected with from my high school or college days, I don't even have a physical address for them. So where does the Christmas card get mailed to? I can only imagine this is multiplied by ten for my daughter's list of friends.

- with other items previously sent via the US Postal Service (bills, catalogs, etc.) now being delivered by electronic means, will our kids even think to run to the mailbox in anticipation of a card, from someone who can tap on a cell phone and get a message into his or her back pocket almost instantly?

- and now there is even a 'green movement' backlash against the Christmas card, citing the waste of resources when the same message can be conveyed electronically with less impact. Ah, those idealist youths…

So what will the future hold for Christmas cards in a Facebook world? Hallmark seems to think they still have a viable business model, citing the 5 billion cards exchanged annually, which they coincidentally point is 17 times greater than the number of Facebook users (though it may be 16 times greater by the time you read this. Or 15. Or 14…)

Well here's how I see it. Just like the person who writes a hand written 'Thank You' note after a job interview stands out, so too will those who send out old fashioned Christmas cards. At a time where you can type a sentence and hit Send to hundreds of recipients in an flash, putting pen in hand will reinforce to your family and friends that you aren't just checking them off a holiday 'to do' list. And besides, printed emails taped around your doorways in place of Christmas cards just doesn't have that same festive look to it...

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