Published: December 2013
In a word: Instagram. In two words: Social media.
Each year my kids know what to expect at Christmas in our family, and they are more than satisfied. They have been grateful and happy each and every year. Christmas Day at our house is not an endless sea of presents to open. In fact, we’re more in the line with the thought that Jesus got three gifts … so maybe that’s about all we also need. I know, totally different than many families, but it’s our family, and for us it has worked. Of course we love the gifts. Who doesn’t enjoy gifts? Gifts are fabulous and fun and sometimes there are a few more than other years. But we do try to make the emphasis less about the pile of presents and more about the phone not ringing, the fire blazing, the music humming and all of us piling up on the couch to watch movies all day. If we never get out of our PJ’s, all the better. We give thanks to God. We make sure Christmas carols are blaring, we eat leftover “Happy Birthday, Jesus” cake for breakfast and make phone calls (and sometimes send texts) to extended family to say, “We miss you. Merry Christmas.” It’s all worked out just fine, until now.
So, where am I going with all this? Last year, my kids’ excitement over their new gifts was a little dimmer. They put on brave faces, but I could tell there was a bit of disappointment … and it was coming from Instagram. Friends were loading Instagram with an endless stream of their new loot, photographing it all to showcase to the world. Some needed several photos to get it all in there. King-sized beds were overflowing with all the gifts. When photo after photo popped up as they scrolled down and down and down, I could see the amazement and shock cross my kids’ faces. To be honest, I’m not sure if the disappointment I felt was really harbored within them or if it was within me. Our way of giving gifts was now being compared to others’ in the midst of Christmas Day. It’s akin to the lady who compares your wedding to someone else’s far-more-fabulous wedding while you are still in your wedding gown. (Yep, that also happened to me.)
AARGH! I wanted to scream. Instagram took my very satisfied kids away from me on Christmas Day. Instead of them hearing about all the new toys their friends received after Christmas (or when they get back at school, when only the few gifts that percolated to the top get talked about anyway), my kids saw a real-time, play-by-play of how other families give gifts, and it’s far different than the way we do it, though I’m sure we give more than some other families. The point is that until the very recent past, no one was comparing gifts literally in the midst of Christmas morning. We at least had that sanctuary. My kids were sweet and pointed out that they preferred our way. But, you know that any kid would prefer a huge heap of gifts. I get it. On a base level, who wouldn’t? It’s all just a bit much when we think about why we even give gifts in the first place: for many families it’s to celebrate God’s greatest gift to us, the birth of His son … something far more precious than a pile of Hermes boxes.
So, this year, my now-10-, 13- and 15-year-olds (and we parents) are banned from all social media from 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve until December 26. Yep. It’s really our gift to them and to ourselves: to decompress, to be present, to give all of our minds a break. And, selfishly, I want our Christmas to stay here within our walls, and I don’t want to share. The world will wait. What I want for Christmas is my family, no social media involved. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest of social media will be there waiting, I’m sure.
The parade of Instagram photos may seem harmless, but the natural tendency is to compare. Who got the best stuff? The most? When kids see others posting photos of newly acquired electronics, toys and clothes, many quickly follow suit — they are, after all, the social media generation, who share virtually everything.
I’m not suggesting everyone needs to do this, but I do think it’s good to raise the question: Does your family need a social media break during Christmas? For my family, we do.