With each passing holiday season, I look forward to opening the mailbox less than I used to.
It is not true that “nobody sends Christmas cards anymore,” as nonsenders announce with an air of self-evident finality.
But, certainly, fewer do.
I know this from firsthand experience. My household receives less than half the number of Christmas cards it did five years ago.
I still send cards. I recognize this is increasingly a minority position.
There are many things to celebrate about the rise of social media, and many to regret. Among the most regrettable is that the Internet has rapidly eroded one of the season’s most charming traditions.
There’s no real pattern.
Insurance agents still send cards, timelessly accompanied by tiny calendars. On the other hand, a surprising number of close friends, even immediate family members, blast out a few words on Twitter or Facebook and consider the job done.
You know who you are, and you can save the excuses. I’ve heard them. Cards are expensive. Signing and addressing them are time-consuming. First-class postage is 46 cents a pop.
Besides, you’re busy. With a few strokes at the computer keyboard, you can spread more cheer among more people than snail mail ever could.
To which I say: Stop kidding yourself.
Electronic communication is efficient, convenient and cheap. It is not charming. It is not thoughtful. It tells friends and loved ones that sending them a Christmas card takes up time you could spend more productively.
When you’re sending mass greetings by social media, your primary thought — let’s be honest here — is of your own convenience. It treats the expression of personal affection as one more obligation to be crossed off the seasonal list.
By contrast, the minute or so it takes to sign and address a card is time spent thinking of someone else.
You drive a few extra blocks on your way to work and mail it. A few days later, someone opens up an envelope and reads your signature — or better yet, a short note. It says that friendship or kinship means something, that it’s worth the effort.
A card is best when it comes from people in other cities, annually renewing past friendships divided by time and geography. The card says that the ties haven’t been broken, that even if you haven’t seen someone in two decades, that person is still in your thoughts and part of your life.
An electronic greeting sort of means that. It might equally mean that you haven’t updated your address list in ages.
Sending an electronic greeting is a breeze, but receiving one is only marginally more heartwarming than opening spam.
The fact that the practice has spread so wide and so quickly without protest is a tribute to the fact that a large number of the recipients are doing the same thing.
Electronic mass greetings are not going away. I write this essay knowing full well that the world spins only forward.
I can’t stop the tides. I can’t command the weather. I can’t wish away the fact that millions of eligible voters get their political news from listicles on Buzzfeed.
In the long history of Christmas, charm has collided with personal preference many times, and there is no record that charm has ever won.
Professional football games on Christmas, retail shopping on Thanksgiving Day — these were all once thought to be tacky and inappropriate. Hard for modern people to believe, but true.
So let us face the future and hope for the best.
Some people, undoubtedly, will save electronic Christmas posts in their archives.
Years later, we can imagine, they will call them up on their tablet screens and read “wishing u great xmas. fifth in line on lawn chair outside WalMart.”
They will tear up at the memory of bygone days and good friends, and they will recall that poignant moment when they clicked “Like.”
Dallas Morning News writer David Flick may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Why I still send Christmas cards — and why you should too
Why I still send Christmas cards — and why you should too. As seen on The Dallas Morning News.
Posted by commoncents at 11:29 AM