The coming of the new year, like the air of cinnamon, fills our being with cheer and joy. The thrill of the season infects all, and the calm of the silent nightfall of the year fills us with eager anticipation for a new dawn that brings with it more joy, more hope. And more technology.
This year, more than any in the past, has been digitally driven. Technology is undoubtedly a blessing during the festive season in more ways than one. Take the simple phone call, for example; this apparently old-fashioned technology is so ubiquitous now that it is hard to believe that less than half a century ago, people away from home on New Year had no way to wish and be wished by their loved ones. Now, all it takes are a few numbers and a low-earth orbiting satellite to connect to any part of the global village that your loved one inhabits.
A recent poll by the Barna Group shows that in America, 82% of people are likely to phone absent friends or family members. Even youngsters are just as likely as their parents and grandparents to pick up the phone on a festive day to wish loved ones – now if that is not the spirit of the season, what is? Close on the heels of the “ancient” technology of telephone comes social networking – facebook, emails, g+, blogs, skype etc. - especially among the millennials. E-cards have taken the place of paper cards that once adorned the fireplace, and as they say, a card-is-a-card-is-a-card.
But of course, it’s not all ho-ho-ho with the techie-celebrations. The 24% of the millenials, in the same poll, who prefer to wish people virtually than in person, could point to a social dysfunction that negates the camaraderie of the season. A holiday text or emoticon-rich e-mail, while convenient indeed, cannot replace the human moment of a face-to-face smile or the lilt of the voice. Living in the virtual world, tweeting, facebooking and emailing, when there are flesh and blood people who chose to share the special day does no one any good either. “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor” said Charles Dickens; why not spread this contagion during these holidays rather than viral posts that insult the physical presence of human beings?
Technology can be a boon or a bane during the festive season in ways other than communication as well. While shopping for gifts is made easier in the comfort of one’s home and a few numbers on a plastic card, it can, for some, destroy that “personal touch” involved in searching for and choosing gifts at a real shop. For others, this small drawback is overpowered by the obviation of finding a parking spot in the same zipcode as the mall! Although sales in brick-and-mortar stores have not lost their sheen, online shopping and in-store browsing are increasingly overlapping as many of the physical customers often research products online before making an in-store purchase or vice versa. Online sales on Cyber Monday this year hit a record $2.68 billion – and this number will only keep rising as the holiday season proceeds.
Online shopping for the holidays with all of its frenzied activities stretches the limits of business technology as well. Increased online traffic and e-commerce sales can put enormous pressure on the infrastructure of the supplier. By staying one step ahead of the rush, the virtual shopkeeper can circumvent expected problems. Routine evaluation of the site and software, updating the design and front end to reflect the seasonal spirit and beefing up cybersecurity to prevent hacking and other mishaps are essential for the retailer to make most of the holiday rush.
Where does the equation lie when you add kids to a tech holiday? Do the benefits outweigh the risks or the other way around? Like everything else, it depends on how we, the adults, manage the mix. Children are indeed a vulnerable target and marketers overtly or surreptitiously target children through social media, websites and viral ads. It is very important to teach kids to think logically and objectively about consumerism and brand pressure during the holidays and help them find the joy of the season rather than the expedient pleasures of “buying stuff”.
With the marketplace, both real and virtual, bursting at its seams with gadgets that beckon kids and adults alike, it is little wonder that 2014 holiday season was expected to see the highest levels of consumer spending to the tune of $33.76 billion on consumer electronics yet. It thus becomes challenging to choose gifts for kids (and adults) that are constructive and reinforce positive beliefs and practices instead of addiction and rampant consumerism. Books, board games (both old-school and digital) and handmade gifts may not speak louder than the din of branded toys and gadgets, but they undoubtedly make the experience of holidays more wholesome.
The Center for a New American Dream reports although most Americans (72%) believe that there is no need to spend money to have a fulfilling and enjoyable holiday, 4 in 5 people polled continue to mindlessly complicate gift giving. The pressure of festival shopping is driven by the need to meet real or imagined expectations and can be overcome through the simple belief that gift giving is only one way of sharing the sense of gratitude, joy and abundance. A simple verbal declaration of appreciation, homespun simple gifts and charity are perhaps better ways of sharing the spirit without the pressures of materialism.
Technology can be put to good use during holiday season without intruding on the spirit. Letting kids design their own new year cards in the computer adds personal touch and warmth. Kids can also be encouraged to make a difference to another’s life through donating online. Sites like We Give Books and Free Rice can change lives of children around the world by simple activities like reading and playing, and what better season to give than the dawn of a new year.
How can you make technology safe during holidays? Keeping your money safe by not using public WiFi hotspots to access your financial platform, ensuring that all financial transactions go through “https” sites, enabling your firewall, updating the antivirus software, and logging off any e-business website before closing the browser are common-sense steps to safeguard your purse and peace. Keeping the wallet and other valuables physically at a safe location and storing pin numbers and passwords in the head rather than cookies are rules that must be taught to children early on.
At Mobicip, the holiday season is literally the busiest week of the year. Little wonder, as parents are typically overwhelmed by the technology gifts their kids receive and therefore wonder about what they expose their kids to. After all, smartphones and tablets today are no less than full-fledged computers in what they do and what they allow one to do. The need for some sort of parental controls is felt by parents sooner or later, and the Mobicip team braces itself every year for an on-slaught of customer enquiries and support requests during this time of the year. The goal is to provide the tools that you need to equip yourself and help sustain a meaningful dialogue with your children on the challenge of staying abreast of a very tech-savvy generation.
Any festival is, as Coolidge said for Christmas, not a season, but a frame of mind that spreads joy and mercy. It is all about preserving traditions and creating meaningful new ones that transcend the mélange of matter. Let us, echoing Dicken’s sentiments, honor the new year in our hearts and try to keep it all year round.
Here's wishing our dear readers and customers a wonderful 2015!
This is an unabridged version of the latest Mobicip Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.