“This year, my family holidays have relied on Skype and Apple's FaceTime to bring far away loved ones to the table,” Mr. Rotolo says via e-mail. Social media has been a boon for military families too, he points out, allowing families separated by overseas deployments to stay connected. Anyone who is unable to fly home due to cost or distance “will be able to experience gift-giving [and] Christmas morning with the kids, and even the dinner table through social video technologies like these, or the newer Google Hangouts, for example,” he adds.
Photo sharing apps such as Instagram allow users to show friends what makes home for the holidays special in a creative and beautiful way, says Rotolo. And we shouldn't forget other digital gifts either, he says, from Kindles and iPads to virtual goods like Facebook or Xbox credits, app downloads, and music.“Christmas 2012, he notes, “ is about sharing online.”
Of course, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, points out Laurie Puhn, author of “Fight Less, Love More: 5 Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In.” Particularly when holiday gatherings are full of many generations, Ms. Puhn says it is critical to honor those who are actually present at a gathering. “It’s all too easy to become a techno-pest,” she says, with people answering cell phones, texting, or just plain fiddling with smart phones instead of being present with friends and family.