There are plenty of things that irritate me about social media, but one area in which it seems to excel is Christmas.
The first thing I noticed was a parade of Christmas trees.
In November, Facebook friends began posting photos of trees.
Some posts were about the process of getting a tree, while others included photos of tree-decorating parties.
Some people posted images of the finished product, in which their trees were displayed in all their radiant glory.
I must admit, I have enjoyed watching the parade of trees pass across my computer screen.
I enjoy seeing the type of trees different people choose, and how they like to decorate them.
Some people go for the minimalist approach, with a Charlie Brown tree and a single ornament.
Others favor the “more is better” approach, and load their trees up with an abundance of lights, garland, and assorted ornaments until one can scarcely see the tree under all the decorations.
Many people opt for a variety of multi-colored lights and ornaments in a multitude of shapes and size.
Others are more rigid, and go with a monochromatic theme, with all the lights the same color, and all of the ornaments the same uniform shape and design.
Some people can’t decide, and put up multiple trees, each with its own theme.
My sister, for example, has an elf tree in addition to her main tree.
Other people have white trees or blue trees, or even trees on which all the decorations bear the logo of their favorite brand or company. I have seen trees laden with beer or liquor labels, and even a John Deere Christmas tree.
I am sure many people could spend a whole evening telling the stories behind each ornament on their tree.
Each year, they carefully and lovingly store them away, and when they unpack them again the following year, they can re-live the memories that are associated with each piece.
Looking at other people’s trees has been fun for me, because they conjure up memories from my own past, and remind me of things or people I haven’t seen in years.
The trees are only the beginning, though.
I have also seen plenty of wreaths and other homemade decorations.
I have observed rows of stockings that have been hung by the chimney with care or by the shelf with care in homes with no fireplace.
Visions of Griswold-like outdoor displays have made me laugh.
It is also fun to see people’s annual family Christmas photos, or, better still, the “behind the scenes” photos the ones in which people are laughing and teasing one another, and not quite assembled in an organized family group. Those are the photos that most reflect the personality of the subjects, and they are the ones I like best.
I have seen photos of holiday baking projects, which have confirmed my suspicion that many of my friends have more time, energy, and patience than I have.
Some people post photos of their children with Santa, or of holiday programs.
I have even seen photos of people out singing Christmas carols. I didn’t realize people still did that sort of thing, but if it is on Facebook, it must be true.
I think the thing I like the most about Christmas in the digital age is that it gives us a window into other people’s lives.
We can learn about people by what and how they choose to celebrate.
There is fun in seeing what we have in common, and what traditions others have that are different from our own.
We might discover new things we would like to try, or remember things from our deep distant past we may have forgotten.
One can almost hear the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations as one scans the Christmas posts that pop up from day to day.
There is a danger that electronic devices and the Internet can isolate us from other people, but there are also ways that these things can bring us together and remind us of what we share.
I don’t do much decorating at the bachelor pad these days, but there are times when it is nice to pause for a moment to see what kind of holiday preparations my friends are up to.
When I do, if it is very quiet, I can sometimes hear the ghosts of Christmases past, and the spirits of holidays yet to come.