It has to happen sooner or later. This year, I have noticed several friends and acquaintances who, rather than send a Christmas card with a “round robin” letter, have chosen to send a newsletter by email, perhaps with a nice picture or design attached. I appreciate this is a much more convenient and efficient way of sending out news and greetings. The long, slow death of the Christmas card has begun, or perhaps it will become the domain of a few diehard enthuasists, a bit like vinyl records. And I personally think this is a shame.
This is not because I am a Luddite. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an enthusiast for new technology where it has real potential to improve our lives. I would not willingly give up my iPod, smartphone or do without iPlayer, and my job increasing. It’s just that we already have easy, light-touch automated ways of keeping in touch. They are called social networks. I use Twitter often, LinkedIn sometimes and Facebook occasionally to share news and photos with people I don’t see often. They make it really easy, which is great. But maybe occasionally maybe we should do something a bit harder.
If something is easy, it cannot signal the value you put on a relationship. Given that so much of our interaction now is electronic and widely broadcasted, I like the fact that, once a year, many people will deliberately go to time and trouble to buy physical cards (or even design them and have them printed if, like my wife, you enjoy these things), write something in them, address them and put them in the post. You are saying, “It matters enough to me to keep in touch with you that I will voluntarily go through inconvenience to make it more special.” And then, like many others, I and my family enjoy arranging the cards as part of our decorations. They tangibly connect us with people we know. If I am simply added to an email address list, someone may or may not actually care whether we keep in touch. And printouts don’t look good propped up on your mantelpiece.
I feel that contact between people (even in education) is becoming increasingly standardised and impersonal – this is a theme I have touched on before and I think I will be returning to in 2013. So I like to feel that Christmas cards are a way of making stand against this trend, at least temporarily.
At least as long as my generation is around, I hope we will still send physical cards to those who matter to us. And whether I sent you a card or not, and however you choose to communicate, best wishes for Christmas and for 2013.