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Why Your Christmas Letter Makes You Look Like an Ass

Recently, I posted about  how you shouldn’t let people’s  Facebook posts bring you down.  This is the truth.  Our own insecurities filter the way we look at the posts of others and can cause us to doubt our accomplishments.  We have to stop our own negative self-talk so that we can enjoy the connectedness social-media can bring. We can only control our emotions and reactions to people.

There are, however, just THOSE people!!

Hypothesis: some people are so insecure, they intentionally post irritating or braggadocios posts to make others feel bad!

Even though there is a twelve-year-old that lives in all of us, and it is tempting to let him out every now and again—STOP IT!  Make healthier choices online.  Online Karma is real.  If you or someone you know is tempted to make less-than-mature posts on Facebook or other social sites, please get help somewhere!

The more you know…

 christmas letter

Irritating online posts might have only appeared in the last few years, but I assure you they have a rich family lineage.  The matriarch of this family is the Annual Christmas Letter. (The inner-office and HOA newsletters are distant cousins.)

***I am so sorry if you find this post offensive, but I thought someone had to tell the truth.  Before you sit down and pour hours into your heartfelt wishes for the season and recap of the year, proceed with caution. ***

The following themes seem to be prevalent in Christmas Letters and make them unbearable to read (incidentally, notice how much they have in common with the irritating Facebook posts):

  1. I’m rich, b@%ch!  I want you to know I am rich, how much I have, and envy my lavish lifestyle.

In these letters, people are almost always writing about material possessions—a lot. It is fun to share new things, things that you are proud of, things you are trying out—but what is your reason behind it?  Do you want me to feel bad?  Do you want to be robbed?

In the letters where I feel most eye-rolly, I don’t get any sense of the reason/people behind the letter.  They are talking at me.  Did you mention your new Rolex because you want others to be jealous or are you proud that you can finally own one?  Maybe if people shared more of the story behind the possession, it wouldn’t leave such a bad taste in people’s mouths.  If the sole purpose is, “Look what I got,” it may be better to leave that out.

 2. Can’t talk right now, I’m on vacation again… and again…and again!

This is the letter where the writer barely has time to type–and they let you know.  One year, I actually got a letter that apologized for it being so short (one page, single spaced) because this person was too busy to write a properly braggadocios letter.  What?!  She mentioned all the fabulous vacations the family had gone on, the funny thing that happened in this rental-manse or that yachting trip, and had to end the letter before the plane left the tarmac.  It’s even worse when they include pictures…

(This letter has a counterpart, “I’m smart, my kids are smart, and let me tell you all the ways we accomplish more than you.”  It is filled with all the bragging and includes a run-down of every achievement, promotion, and marathon finishing time you can stand).

Again, I ask, what is the point of this letter?  Do you want people to know you’re busy?  They already know.  You haven’t even had time to call them the past year.

3. My life is horrible and filled with tragedy.

This letter is the opposite of the letter above.  This author wants you to know how horribly unfair life is, how misery abounds, but that she will soldier on with a brave face…barely.  My family is great at writing these letters.  Nothing says “Christmas cheer” like a run-down of every illness, foreclosure, layoff, and divorce.

4. My life is horrible and filled with tragedy–and you did NOTHING to help me.

Similar to the letter above, this letter wants the reader to know how horrible the author’s life has been AND THEN feel terrible that the reader did nothing to help.  These letters have all the sob of the original “letters of tragedy” with a twist of passive-aggressive manipulation thrown in for good measure. You’ll know for sure the letter you’re reading fits this category when it mentions, “If it wasn’t for our kind neighbor, Suzan, we would have frozen to death.”  Is Suzan getting a copy of this letter?

5. You really need to convert to my religion. Now.

I’m not sure if I’m extra sin-y or if other people get these letters too. Coming from a very mixed religious background, people seem to be extra concerned for my immortal soul.  If it wasn’t for the tell-tale sign of the printer running out of ink from proselytizing en masse, I would think these letters had an agenda meant only for me.  Honestly, the card the letter came in was enough!  The letter is overkill.

People did not sign up for your newsletter–you are sending it to them without permission and there is no “unsubscribe” button.  Try to put yourself in the shoes of the recipient.  Pushing anything on your readers, especially a sensitive and personal choice like religious beliefs, is a dangerous decision.  It can come across as extremely offensive.

Christmas Letter 2010-001

 

Friends have told me they really enjoy the writing of the letter, the tradition they have developed around it and the memories it brings.  That is wonderful.  It is also personal.  Those letters should be kept for years to come. The children will cherish them. Why not make a Pinterest project out of it and make the letters into a book the family can read every year?

The point is, it’s not for us to read.  It is personal.  What people want in a Christmas card is communication to them.  If I haven’t heard from you the entire year before the holiday season, you must not think of me very often.  Reading a play-by-play of your life isn’t going to “keep the friendship alive.”  Besides, aren’t we both on Facebook?  I’ve probably been reading your Christmas letter “rough draft” all year long.  Loved the picture of your second trip to Borneo, btw.  You know, the one where you are having a champagne toast at the Ritz?!

If you genuinely have no agenda–you really don’t want to look like a braggart, a snark, or make people feel bad for you–just write a nice little note in the card you send.  Write something personal.  It can be hard to find something to say.  The year goes by so fast; there is a lot to catch up on. Just start with something small.  If you want to keep your friendship alive, let your friend know and schedule a lunch date.  Here are a few prompts to get you started:

  • I miss you.
  • Saw on Facebook that you…
  • I laugh every time I think about when you/we…
  • Remember…
  • You once said…

As with Facebook posts, the most important thing to keep in mind is your REASON for your statement or announcement.  It’s OK to be proud, but there is a point when pride becomes one of the seven deadly sins.  We all have moments where we get carried away or lapse into immature thinking.  We just have to make sure these moments are few and far between.  We are adults, after all.  We want to set good examples for our children.  Let’s start by making the Christmas Letter a family tradition, and send them only to the people the letter is actually about.

 

P.S.  Feel free to passive-aggressively share this letter with people in your life who need to be notified…

 

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