Shawn Douglas

Thursday - Dec 22, 2011

Holidays and the InternetWith Yuletide songs, Christmas cheer,
and Auld Lang Syne whispering at our ear,
traditional holidays wave goodbye,
as the Internet becomes their new ally.

But how has the Internet
changed all that we know?
Does holiday celebration
now have a new beau?

Sit right back
and read what I say,
as for better or for worse
things are different today!

1. Organize holiday events using self-organization and social media tools found online.

Online social tools like Meetup.com and Facebook.com have made it easier than ever to make plans for holiday celebrations like Southeast Asia’s Water Festival or New Zealand’s Waitangi Day. Letters and phone calls may have once been the norm’, but now Internet-connected people can schedule events and invite people with only a few clicks of the mouse. St. Patrick’s Day party? Labor Day camping? Send off a digital invite in advance and get a better idea of who’s attending.

Truth be told, a phone call to family to organize a holiday event will always be in style. Just don’t be surprised if that phone call takes place over the Internet.

2. Feel a little closer to loved ones far away by streaming video from your web camera or placing Internet-streamed video calls.

It happens all the time: a life experience takes a loved one far away from friends and family. For those used to spending time with loved ones on holidays, the distance can be difficult to deal with. A phone call was as close as one could get. But with advances in how bandwidth-hogging media is transported over the Internet, making a video call or streaming live webcam footage online is now all the rage. Making video calls is easier than ever these days, making long-distance communication more intimate and engaging, and holidays a little bit brighter for many.

3. Book travel and accommodations to see family and friends during holiday celebrations from an Internet-connected device.

Say you want to fly from Paris to Baltimore to see your family for Christmas, but you also want the comfort of a dockside hotel. It used to mean talking to a travel agent or placing phone calls to make bookings. Today things are quite different. Whether you’re at a café or at home, as long as there’s an Internet connection you can go online to compare hotel rates, book plane tickets, and — for those who want to skip out on dirtying the kitchen — reserve a table at a restaurant. With this new technology has come fierce competition in the travel industry, in many cases driving down prices for travelers going home for the holidays.

4. Buy holiday gifts online, saving time and hassles in the process.

Searching for the perfect Boxing Day gift? Sending flowers to your beau on Valentine’s Day? People are increasingly turning to the Internet to accomplish these tasks and more. Earlier this month I mentioned that online holiday spending is seeing big gains this year. It won’t be surprising to see that trend continue, even beyond the hectic end-of-year holidays that so heavily involve buying gifts for loved ones. With a wealth of low-cost shipping options and online price comparison tools like Google Shopping, it’s little surprise to see the process of gift shopping go online. Even something as traditional as a Parents’ Day card is occasionally being replaced by an online interactive greeting card. One has to wonder, though, if such a digitalization threatens to remove the intimacy of the act.

5. Notice how the holidays seem more commercialized than ever with the advent of the Internet age.

While I’m not offering any hard facts to back up this assertion, it sure seems like the Internet is just another extension of an already increasingly commercialized take on official holidays. With the Internet, a plethora of advertisements and purchasable products is at our fingertips. Sadly, now we can’t even escape our own homes without being assaulted by online ads that beckon us to buy flowers for our Valentine or order that hip Charlie Sheen Halloween mask. Now we even have online shopping days like Cyber Monday set aside for us with the intent to get us to buy more gifts (and personal items) before Christmas. Next I’m sure we’ll be seeing “official” corporate sponsors for holidays worldwide. Joy to the world.

Photo via The Sean & Lauren Spectacular, Flickr Creative Commons

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