"Doesn't it seem like people are sending their Christmas cards late this year?" my friend asked as we made dinner for our families late in December. It did. And there were fewer of them, too. We string our cards up on a line across our kitchen as a kind of garland, and this year for the first time, the cards didn't make it all the way across. If I use our garland as a measuring stick (comes in handy that way), there were probably 25% fewer this year.
Christmas card-sending has been on the downturn for years, but I wondered: why the sudden notable drop this December? The answer, I think, could be Instagram. While Facebook's been going for years, Instagram's popularity is newer... And because Instagram's only about photos, it functions as a steady stream of select-the-best-moment images of daily life. Once you've shown the best, up-close pictures of your people, what's the point of a Christmas card? It almost seems redundant. Christmas cards send cheer and an update: here's who we have. Here's what we/they look like. Here's what we're up to. Today, though, Instagram takes care of all of this for us. 365 days a year. With two-way dialog (in the form of comments). For free. Making Christmas cards feel almost obsolete.
I like photos and community. And I'm new-school and old-school-- I like Instagram and Christmas cards. I want both worlds to stay. But I wonder if they will. Christmas cards are specific, intentional, and proactive. They offer something limited - limited number of photos, limited run of cards. Social media photo feeds are most often general, sporadic, widespread... and basically unlimited. That's the point - and the appeal. They're the post-and-go corkboard photo display of our virtual lives. It'd be nice if the two trends worked well together, but their very natures makes it hard for them to line up.
If I have 500 photos on my phone, just transferring them to my computer feels like a lot more work than I want to bite off on a Saturday afternoon. Transfer, review, compare, file, delete. Taking them was so fast, but dealing with them is so tedious.
There are just.so.many. For me... and for most everyone else.
This month I've been consolidating an old photo library with a new one, and taking on the task reminds me why I put it off for so many years. Storage challenges abound. Reviewing the files takes ages. The whole thing is the worst. Ten years of modern life equates, for me, to 12,000 plus photos. What on earth, I ask myself?