And there are so many online options to bring us closer together this year, says Anthony Rotolo, a professor at Syracuse University iSchool in New York. These options range from the more familiar, such as Facebook, to brand new sites such as Path – the exclusively mobile social network designed to be shared only with one’s closest friends – and Kondoot, which debuted in the US on Dec. 12 and is a social media tool that allows free, live online broadcasting.
“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.”