A Teen Speaks: Is Facebook Stealing The True Meaning of Christmas from Today's Teens?

Facebook has become a part of everyday life, especially for teenagers, and can be a great form of communication. But are young people spending too much time on the social networking program if they can't even spend Christmas Day without it?

Facebook has become a part of everyday life for most teenagers; Christmas Day is no exception. While morning traditions such as waking the parents and present opening continue, a new one has been added to these significant annual events. Now, not only are the teens of today participating in these activities, they are communicating with all of their Facebook ‘friends’, spreading Christmas cheer further than ever before. At the convenient press of a button, most having access to the social networking site via their mobile phones, teenagers are checking their Facebook pages on the morning of Christmas to receive their various festive messages.

Real friends, online friends and people who are simply acquaintances will be expecting Christmas well wishes, just as people expect messages of congratulations on their birthday from all their ‘friends’ on the social networking site, even if they don’t even talk in real life. It has happened several times to friends of mine. They have received birthday messages from people they never talk to and wouldn’t even expect to remember their birthday, let alone wish them a happy one, but thanks to the handy Facebook reminder, the whole world knows the exact birthdates of said friends. One friend in particular received a message from a person she actually disliked, and knew disliked her in return. The same can be said for Christmas. People who aren’t friends, some who you may even dislike, will send you Facebook messages and expect a reply in return. For a holiday that is meant to be about family, giving and general goodness, should we really be sending fake messages of love and best wishes?

The public holiday is traditionally shared with family and close friends, and that’s the way it should stay: a special day where loved ones get together and act completely selflessly, thinking more about others for that day than they do about themselves. However, while saying this, I am not completely naïve and understand that this doesn’t happen and like the best ideas, such as communism and world peace, will never be successfully executed. I understand that consumerism and outrageously extravagant presents are taking over the original nature of Christmas and while I enjoy an expensive present as much as the next person, I can see that the idea of gift giving has been blown up to ridiculous proportions. The true meaning of Christmas is disappearing amongst piles of wrapping paper and expensive gadgets, and now teenagers with their eyes glued to the Facebook homepage, changing their statuses.

While I agree that every one should be amiable and jovial on Christmas Day, even towards people we don’t know or don’t like, spreading Christmas cheer to your Facebook ‘friends’ worldwide is taking it too far. Way too far. Christmas is a day that should be spent with those close to us, not some stranger we have only met on the net. Besides, who can honestly say that a relationship conducted purely online is a healthy one? Is there really a need to communicate online with these strangers on such a day as Christmas Day? At risk of sounding like the Grinch, I think not. Christmas should be about spending quality time with loved ones, not shallow conversations that take part solely online. Sure, if you run into someone you should by all means be polite, perhaps even make a little bit more of an effort due to the holiday, but it is not about wasting your kindness over the net to people who aren’t even your real friends. If people are true friends more effort should be made than a mere Facebook comment.

Teenagers, if only for a single day, should be living in the real world. For every other day of the year they are being sucked into cyberspace, another world with profiles, statuses and likes, and missing out on what is happening in their real lives. Christmas Day should be spent Facebook free which will allow modern teens to acknowledge their friends and family members in the real world. I mean honestly, how impersonal is a Facebook message? If you truly care about someone make an effort to give them a call if you won’t be seeing them, so at least they can hear the sincerity in your voice, or at the very, very least send them a text message. Anything screams love and best wishes better than a quick Facebook comment. Spending time and communicating verbally with people face-to-face may just be the perfect antidote to a year’s worth of shallow Facebook communication, and despite the common belief among today’s teenagers that suggests otherwise, staying off Facebook for one day of the year won’t actually kill you. I promise.

Image copyright Peter Swann of Eastnews.