Now that some holiday dust has settled, let me ask you something: Did you send fewer Christmas cards this year than last? Did you receive fewer?
Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I’m one of what appears to be a rare-and-vanishing-breed of old-fashioned souls who starts banging out a family Christmas letter each year just after Thanksgiving. Sometimes before. December without an annual family newsletter is like peanut butter without jelly, Aspen slopes without snow, Lucy without Ethel… Well. You get the idea.
Do you write letters anymore, even around the holidays? How many people read your letters? While I’m clunking merrily away on the keyboard, I’m fully aware that my year-end wrap-up of family news, vacation photos, sports events and special occasions will most likely be speed-read by a select few and ignored by most. How come? Here are a few possibilities:
1) Social Media. With the predominance of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the like, most of us who use social media keep up with our friends and family in brief on-line bytes year-round. This is a double-edged sword. If you’re not careful, you can easily swap convenience for quality. Because online media allows us to touch base with a minimum of effort, we may not feel the need to invest time and effort drafting a newsy, chatty annual recap or investing time and effort to cultivate “face time” with other people. Real relationships require real effort far beyond what can be crammed into superficial status updates or 140 character tweets.
2) Expense. Let’s face it. Selecting and purchasing hard copy cards (if you can find any you like at a reasonable price), hand-addressing and licking envelopes, spending a small fortune in postage and hauling kit and caboodle to the post office is a foreign concept to some cyber trolls.
3) Ease and Convenience. Letter-writing and card addressing take time. In our hustle-bustle, rush-rush society, time is not only a finite commodity, it’s at a premium. We’re always looking for “faster, easier, and cheaper.” I get that. Email or on-line greetings fill the bill in that regard. But I wonder: Are we grasping at straw while tossing away diamonds?
Although I’ve pared back my Christmas card list in recent years, I still pound out that family Christmas letter each November. Email greetings are fine and there are plenty of cool ecards from which to choose. Yes, I send both to most people on my list (or eddress book). The only exceptions are those sans computers. And if someone I haven’t heard from for awhile sends me a card? You can bet I respond in kind, lickety-split!
While I’m no longer tempted to take out a loan to finance yuletide postage, paper and ink costs, I phone close friends and family around the holidays more than I used to before the advent of online media. I also look for more ways to get together one-on-one if logistics permit.
Even so, there’s just something about receiving a card or letter in the mail that you can touch and open, something that a friend or relative took time to address and tuck into an envelope along with an annual newsletter. Call me old-fashioned, but receiving a card in the mail just seems to say “I care” heaps more than the quick, easy electronic version.
Someone once said: “Time is like a penny; you can spend it any way you want, but you can only spend it once.” Just like writing, people take time. Although quick and convenient, social media is a poor substitute for cultivating meaningful relationships.
I think I’m going to write a few more notes, plan some lunch dates and make some more calls. How ’bout you?
Lots more, so stay tuned! 🙂