How Social Media Is Killing the Christmas Card.

For much of my life the Christmas Card Season was a highlight of my year. I loved going to the mailbox to see it stuffed full of cards from friends and family all over the country. The cards typically came with beautiful or funny photographs and a written update offering highlights from the year for each member of the family. It was reassuring to know that the people I hadn’t heard from in the past 12 months were still not dead.

The Christmas Card, and its blue-collar brother, the letter, used to be the only technologies that allowed us to share pictures and status updates with our family, professional network and social circles. The people you exchanged cards with defined your social group. Being on someone elses Christmas card distribution list meant that your relationship was worth at least the cost of a card, an envelope and a stamp.

The Year That Changed Everything

Today things are different. The change began in 2007 with the introduction of two new technologies that were invented to kill the Christmas card: Facebook and the iPhone. Facebook’s expansion beyond the college crowd that year meant that old people, like Gen Xers (and whoever was born before them) could suddenly be reunited, online, with people they hadn’t seen or heard from since high school. This was a crazy time. I was in my 30s, and I was suddenly reunited, online, with people I had completely forgotten even existed. Like my Grandparents.

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Leapfrogging The Polaroid

The newly invented iPhone was actually not a smart phone as initially reported. It was a wicked smart camera. It enabled us to instantly capture and view photographs without the help of a darkroom or a teenage Walgreens associate. Even better, these super cameras enabled us to instantly share pictures with our friends and family via text, email, and Facebook. Later we added Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn to the distribution list.

Dear Letter, I found someone new.

And about that thoughtful letter we used to write, summarizing the recent year. It has been castrated by technology. There is no power left in an end of year letter in an era when social media allows us to know what our elementary school friends had for dinner last night.

I am an active social media follower. So I know about that recent recital, the restaurant you went to last weekend and that tournament that your child’s team won. I already know about the 3rd person you are dating since the divorce. I know that the Christmas tree tipped over when you put that last ornament on it. (Wait, that was me. And who puts another ornament on a tree that has already tipped over?)

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Where do we go? (Oh oh, where we do we go now?)

Does this mean it is time to put the Christmas card to bed? No. Not necessarily. But it does mean that it is time for us to reinvent it. Maybe this means we get back to writing about our personal connection and the memories we share with each individual on our list, instead of mass mailing pics and updates that the recipient already knows.

Opportunity

This also presents a business opportunity to invent a more relevant holiday correspondence. Maybe a Mad Lib type technology that enables us to send personalized digital cards, highlighting the experiences we shared with each recipient. Maybe we use facial recognition software, time stamps and geo tags to effortlessly create cards that show our people when and where we interacted with them throughout the year. And maybe we video chat, or hologram ourselves to sing Christmas carols together on Christmas Eve-Eve.

Since 2007, my family has created a year-in-review video using the best of our digital photography to tell the story of all the things we did, places we went and people we saw. We set it to music, and shared with our friends and family on New Year’s Day, via Vimeo link. Technology makes this so easy that the hardest part is simply deciding which pics to cut out.

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The Grand Consolation

If receiving fewer cards each year saddens you, don’t let it. The traditional Christmas card era was a great one. We will always have those memories. But it is better to be in touch with our friends, family and professional network more often. It’s great to see photos of our siblings, cousins, childhood friends, former clients and coworkers on a regular basis. The real-time nature of social media allows us to celebrate the successes when they happen. And support each other as we go through tough times, instead of hearing about them months later.

Key Takeaway

Just like the newspaper and the horse and buggy, the Christmas card ain’t what it used to be. But these are better, more connected times. We have upgraded to more frequent exchanges of pictures and updates. Even better, technology now allows us to instantly respond to them with real, private conversation through social media apps, or that smart phone that makes it all possible. This is progress. This makes for a better world, year round. Which adds happiness into our lives every day. Not just at the holidays.

Note: The Albrechts are not pulling the plug on our Christmas cards yet. If you are still sending us one, you will still get one in return. 

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The 12 most popular birthday wishes on Facebook.

Today is my birthday! I have always loved my big day. But technology has made birthdays even more fun. Remember the pre-Friendsterspacebookgram era? You might have gotten a couple of calls from your closest, most thoughtful friends, on your land line, or flip phone. You may have received a few cards via snail mail. Which was kinda like the Pony Express. Only it useds snails. In total, 5-7 people remembered your day. Most of them were blood relatives.

Today, birthdays are way better. Facebook makes you feel like the most popular kid in cyberspace on your birthday. Friends come out of the digital woodwork to send you a birthday wish. Even friends you forgot were on Facebook surface like narwhals to deliver birthday wishes. Perhaps this is because Facebook makes you feel guilty for knowing about a birthday and not acting on it. After all, if we don’t have anything to say to a friend on their birthday, we have no reason to ever interact.

Which raises the question, how do you wish a friend or family member a happy birthday on social media? I’ve been studying birthday trends over the past 10 years. Here is a list of the most common birthday wishes on Facebook.

Top 12 Facebook birthday wishes.

1. The Be-Earlied Birthday wish.  This is the first wish you receive. It comes from a friend who is eager to be your first and most thoughtful FB friend. This can arrive anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days early. Sometimes the be-earlied birthday comes from a friend who is confused, or forgot your actual birthday, or is incarcertated and only has internet access for one day per week. Or, perhaps this friend is in a different part of the world where it is already May 25th, even though it is still May 24th where you live (substitute your birthday and birthday eve for May 25th and May 24th).

2. The Happy Birthday wish. As the name implies, this wish simply says Happy Birthday. It is the most common. It is the vanilla. The Chevrolet. But this hardworking message gets the job done without controversy.

3. The Happy Birthday! wish. This message ads an exclamation point to Happy Birthday. It has more energy. More pixel pop on your screen. It is like adding a cherry to your vanilla. Or honking the horn on your Chevy.

4. The Happy Birthday Name wish: Here the Wisher adds your name. This message is nice because it feels custom-made for you. It’s not like your friend cut and pasted the same Happy Birthday message they post on everyone else’s birthday wall.  They took the time to type your name. I like this touch. It’s like a captcha check that ensures your friend is not a robot.

5. The Exclaimed wish For some people, one exclamation point is just not enough. They need more. But 2 and even 3 exclamation points can still fall within the normal range. The Exclaimer has a more-is-better mentality. Like a cat lady. You need 4 or more !s to qualify. I like my crazy cat lady friends. And I love the enthusiasm of my Exclaimer friends!!!!!!!! Seriouosly!!!!!!!

6. The Heart wish.  Some people send you a heart on your birthday. Special friends do this. So do creepy friends.

7. The Birthday Emoji wish. This is a throwback to cave dwelling. This message may include an image of a birthday cake, balloon, streamers, champagne or party hat. Sometimes all of these, and more. Make a note of your friends who are good at emoji stories. You will want them on your team the next time you play Pictionary, or rendezvous with Martians.

8. The Birthday GIF wish.  This quick, humorous wish often adds both energy and humor to your birthday wall. Like a snake jumping out of a can. Or silly string to the face. Keep these coming. They make it feel like a party, 

9. The Birthday Meme wish: These are fun. Or thoughtful. Or both. They often say a lot about the friend who posted them. They are the modern equivalent to the Hallmark card. When I get one of these I imagine my friend spending an hour or so in the meme aisle at digital Walgreen’s, carefully picking out just the right birthday meme for me. Then walking out without paying.

10. The Personalized Message wish. This wish is really nice. Some friends post this wish to your wall. Others send it via messenger. It is a thoughtful birthday wish, tailored just for you. It could be funny or sincere. The key is that it makes your feel like the Wisher couldn’t send this wish to anyone but you. I try to send this kind of wish. But I often send number 11.

11. The Last Train wish.  According to Emily Facebook-Post, it is proper etiquette for you to post a Thank You message for all the birthday wishes you’ve received on the night of your birthday. 10pm or later, local time, is a good time to post your thank you. You will always have friends who failed to post anything before this, who will jump on the chance to attach their message to your thank you. They are kinda like a hobo jumping on the last train outta Cleveland.

12. The Belated Birthday wish.  This is the last hurrah. It’s the birthday wish that comes after your birthday is over. It’s a Lucky Strike extra. Like the firework that goes off after the grand finale ends, while you are walking to your car.

I am excited about my birthday. I plan to spend some time with my family, go fishing, workout, and go for a bike ride. I will also do a little wish-watching on Facebook to see how many different species of birthday wishes I spot.

Birthday Request

If you would like to give me a birthday gift that doesn’t cost you anything, and only takes a few seconds to give, I would love to have you subscribe to this blog. I write about my experiences as Founder of the advertsing agency, The Weaponry. I often write about life lessons and self improvement. But sometimes I write super useless helpful stuff like this.

How Mark Zuckerberg helped me put my life back together.

Some people live their entire lives in one nest. You know the type. You can see the hospital where they were born, their high school, their first job, their bowling alley and their nursing home all from the highest point in town. That’s not me. Life has been an exciting adventure of change from the jump. I lived in five states by the time I started 7th grade. I went to college 1000 miles from home. And I have traded license plates many times since graduation. #WitnessProtectionProgram.

I love my nomadic lifestyle. I have been exposed to traditions, foods, history, religion, weather and sports from a wide variety of angles. This has been a blessing for a creative professional. The one oddity, is that for a very long time, when I changed chapters, I would never see or hear from people in the previous chapter again.

But in 2007 that all changed. Because of Facebook. That thing that we so often take for granted as a silly time waster, quite literally changed my life. It allowed me to reconnect with childhood friends and neighbors from New Jersey, Wisconsin, Missouri, Vermont and New Hampshire.  Then I was able to find classmates from The University of Wisconsin. And coworkers from Cramer Krasselt, and Engauge. (Ohio, Georgia and Moxie/Publicis Groupe were added later).

I reconnected with clients and vendors. Neighbors and distant relatives. And people I’ve met at parties and on planes (I’ve met a lot of people on planes). Suddenly, I stopped losing track of people. As a people collector and connector I no longer have to box friends up and store them on a shelf every time I move or change jobs. Now I can play with them whenever I want.

Of course there is LinkedIn too. Which I love. The great Link-A-Roo has allowed me to reconnect and collect people in another, more quasi professional way. (The quasi is all me LinkedIn. You have been nothing but professional). I recently discovered that my friend Nissa Kubly (UW Track) and Cher Fesenmaier (cousin) both work at the same high school in Phoenix.  One of the craziest connections that I discovered through LinkedIn is that three of my friends, Neil Miklusak (college buddy from Wisconsin), Audrey Lowder (former co-worker at Engauge in Atlanta) and Erika O’Toole (we met on a flight to NYC) all work together, in the Empire State Building, at LinkedIn!

The simple fact is that if it were not for Facebook and other social platforms I would likely never see, or have any interactions with the majority of my friends and Linkys ever again. (I don’t know what you actually call a person on LinkedIn. Linkletters? Linkins? Linklings?

As I have started The Perfect Agency Project, my connections have become even more important. I am always looking for ideas, support and people to join the project.  Over the past few months, thanks to my online network, I have reconnected in person with dozens of people I hadn’t seen in 10 to 30 years. That’s cray.

So thank you to Mark Zuckerberg for allowing me to have my personal “This is your life’ moments every day. It is absolutely mind-blowing to think I may never lose a friend again. Except maybe Alex ‘Big Drawz’ Mautz, my college track teammate who moved to San Diego and must enjoy such perfect weather that he never needs to connect to the rest of us.

As a fun demonstration of the topic of this post, and to see who, if any of my people read this all the way to the end, I would love for you to share a word or a sentence about how we know each other. Thanks for playing.