Many families see the holiday season as good reason to send out summaries of everything they did over the previous year. People being people, not-so-glamorous moments are thrown out, leaving only the bold-face achievements: mom and dad's 10-day silent meditation retreat in India, Adam's spot on varsity soccer, Lily's acceptance to Yale. What arrives in our mailboxes, or inboxes, often read more like boastful resumes than intimate looks into our friends' and relatives' lives.
Here, five reasons why we should stop sending holiday letters:
1. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. We are living in an age of hyper-sharing. We've got ultrasound photos, college sweatshirt day photos, marathon action photos, vacation albums, and humblebrags beginning with "I am thrilled" or "I am so humbled." After those 24/7/365 updates, some of our friends and relatives probably want to hear less about our lives, not more. Do we really need to send a greatest hits lists at the end of the year?
2. We're not buying it. After a decade of mommy blogs chronicling every parenting "failure" — from a dinner made up of oyster crackers and canned chili to bribing their children with television — we're aware that these Leave it to Beaver scenes are smoke and mirrors. Seconds after the family portrait with everyone dressed in white, one kid started crying, another spilled chocolate milk, the teenager went right back to Snapchat, and the spouse whose idea it was got yelled at by the other spouse who thought the whole thing was ridiculous. We know your life isn't all mindfulness and Sunday family cycling trips.
3. They make us feel bad. Writers of these letters feel pressure to make their families sound accomplished, and readers of these letters can't help but compare themselves to the brilliant and indefatigable Joneses. This year the Seleni Institute, a women's mental health organization, created a whole campaign to fight this and are encouraging women to share pictures on social media of the off-moments from the previous year.
4. They are making us both busier and feel busier, and we are already busy enough. In her fantastic book Overwhelmed, Brigid Schulte spoke to communications professor Ann Burnett, who has studied holiday letters for decades, and found a rise in words like "whirlwind," "crazy," and "hard to keep up with it all." This is because busyness has become a status symbol, albeit one that isn't actually making our lives any better.
5. Our children need a break. Today's children are already overwhelmed with packed schedules and high expectations. Do we really need to remind them that John got into Harvard early?
Instead of spending time on that holiday letter, here is what I suggest: For any family members or friends who are not online, spend time writing them a personal letter and include only the details they would actually care about hearing. Maybe it's a funny story about what happened when your son lost his first tooth. Maybe it is how your oldest came in first place at the swimming tournament.
The point is, it's not about bragging, but about connecting. For those friends who do follow you on social media, make a point to connect in person. Share a drink or a meal. Talk about how you're feeling, not what you are doing. It will make for a much more meaningful season's greeting.