Merry Christmas…Sorta

“You should have seen the look on her face”
“His expression alone was priceless.”
“Her eyes just lit up.”

It’s a pretty awesome thing to watch someone you care about open a gift – a gift they really wanted badly. The younger they are, the better. With age comes the sobering ability to mute our emotions with “refined judgment” and a dash of cynicism. When we’re kids, that filter isn’t really in place yet.

Even for grownups like ourselves, it’s always fun to see the kid in us come out when we open a gift. It’s fun to experience – whether you’re opening a gift yourself or watching someone else.
As the Internet continues to seep into our lives, we’re watching a transformation of sorts that is compromising the experiences we have with one another. Things that we give each other are no longer really “things” anymore. We’re digitizing everything. Google is indexing everything. Movies. Music. Writings (like magazines and books). The physical artifacts – the things we carry, and cherish, and wrap, and give one another – are disappearing.
Gift cards. Spending credits. “Points” of some sort or another. It really takes something away from the entire experience. With the digitization of things comes an inability to really appreciate the things themselves. There’s so much stuff out there we’re overloaded. I’m as guilty as anyone else for wanting a 60GB mp3 player.
What the hell am I going to do with 60 gigs? It’s an incomprehensible amount of music. I find myself never letting songs finish. Flipping around aimlessly. There’s simply too much stuff and it’s everywhere and easily attainable. Yet, we seem to have less to really enjoy. Will Sheff, lead singer of Okkervil River and an eloquent writer, sums it up nicely:

The internet – with its glut not only of information but of misinformation, and of information that is only slightly correct, or only slightly incorrect – fills me with this same weird mixture of happiness and depression. I sometimes feel drowned in information, deadened by it. How many hundreds of bored hours have you spent mechanically poring through web pages not knowing what you’re looking for, or knowing what you’re looking for but not feeling satisfied when you find it? You hunger but you’re not filled. Everything is freely available on the internet, and is accordingly made inestimably valuable and utterly value-less…These days, with all the choice in the world, it’s hard for me find the attention span for a single album. I put my iPod on shuffle and skip impatiently to the next song before each one’s over. I don’t even know what I’m looking for.

I don’t think we realize it just yet because we’re still adjusting to all this change. But something has changed. Even though there is this wealth of digital “stuff” out there, there is somehow less to enjoy. Less to focus on and dive into. Less to truly savor and appreciate. Less to give one another.
In software, it’s oddly ironic that we seem to be reproducing how the real world works and feels. Apple’s latest iteration of iTunes has a great little feature where we can flip through virtual CD cases in our collection. It’s a convincing reproduction of the real life experience – except it’s not the real life experience. We can’t throw that CD in a bag. More importantly, we can’t wrap it in gift wrap and give it to someone to borrow.
Today, retailers are enjoying record-breaking gift card sales, and the funny thing is…many people don’t even bother using them.
So get out there. Shop! Buy someone something they can rip open and get all giddy about. That’s half (if not more) of the fun…

4 Comments Merry Christmas…Sorta

  1. Amy Hoy

    I totally agree. For that reason, we haven’t been giving people gift cards unless we’re totally stumped (or we wanted to contribute to something big-ish without spending tons of money). Unfortunately, it’s not as much fun unwrapping presents if you even have a vague idea of what they might be — alas! Or maybe it’s just being older.
    My father gave my fiancé a great gift this year, though — he pre-ordered the new Smash Bros for the Wii. Even though it was a piece of paper, essentially a “future” for a thing and really just as unexciting as a gift card, he decided to be sneaky and put it in a cd box. Justin was duly surprised.
    I’ve decided that in the future, I’m going to also go for “tricky” unwrapping jobs, to help return that sense of excitement to all of us jaded adults :)

  2. VideoDame

    Gift cards are problematic too because they often have hidden feeds, that well, make them less than cash. Plus you can’t cuddle them.
    Soemhow cuddling cash is somewhat acceptable, but despite “popular (advertising) wisdom” I’d rather have a friggin fruitcake or handmade sweater than say, the Sopranos DVDs. Tacky is good people. If I wanted a DVD, I’d have bought it already. And cheaper than you will.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *