God rest ye merry Facebook fans: how to resist the urge to Instagram your turkey dinner
Generally, this column extols the virtues of internet connected gadgets. But there is one day that presents a problem, even for us: Christmas Day. Navigating the etiquette around tweeting, Instagramming and news-checking over plum pudding is complex. Some say leave it out altogether. Others say to live and let tweet. Generally, we like to honour tradition.
With this in mind, here are five ways to neutralise the antisocial effect of your digital obsession over Christmas Day festivities.
1 Stop checking Twitter or Facebook every 10 minutes
Context: According to recent data from Facebook, its average users check their accounts between 10 to 15 times per day on their phone. While some of this may be in some way constructive, it is sheer compulsion for many. Can't we switch off for a single day while in the company of friends and family?
Solution: Log out of your Twitter and Facebook accounts. That way, you'll have to spend about 15 seconds getting back in (hopefully enough to put you off; if problem persists, uninstall app for the day). And you also won't get alerts that someone has mentioned or messaged you.
2 Skip Christmas Day online sales
Context: Incredibly, retailing is now reaching into previously untouchable holidays. According to research agency Experian, Christmas Day 2012 was the fifth biggest online shopping day in Britain last year, with 107 million retail website visits.
It's led by online outlets such as Amazon, Argos, Currys, PC World and Halfords, all of which start their post-Christmas sales on December 25. The only reason that Arnotts or Brown Thomas still observe a sales-free day could be because their websites are still underdeveloped.
Solution: Give your credit card to another family member (preferably one without an internet connection) for the day.
3 Resist the urge to Instagram the sprouts
Context: Yes, the sherry trifle does look a little funky in that lo-fi filter you've picked out in Instagram. But there are two reasons why you should limit your compulsion to snap and share everything around you.
First, there is a danger that we are all starting to miss key life moments because we are so determined to photograph and publish them instead. Whether it's a concert or someone's wedding vows, many of us sacrifice the moment checking whether our smartphone is recording in HD or just standard definition.
Secondly, there is a limit to what makes an interesting photo.
Just ask yourself: would I find someone else's snap of an Aldi Christmas cracker interesting? How about the silver forks? Or the blurry, badly lit table?
Solution: Limit your photos to one or two. And realise that a 1977 hipster filter doesn't make a shot of tinsel stand out.
4 Fight the twitch for online news and infotainment satiation
Context: Even if you can stave off the urge to see what Christmas jumpers your fellow tweeters, Facebookers and Instagrammers are wearing, there's a whole world of seductive news out there. The temptation to check in, just to see what's happening, is considerable. But this is the equivalent to reading a newspaper: it's largely done on your own.
Solution: Share the indulgence. Instead of making your news fix a solitary matter, get 15 minutes of it on the couch with your family or friends. It might even turn into a social activity.
5 Adopt this rule: if the screen is under 25 inches, it stays off
This is a simple rule that can work for everyone. While TV is part of Christmas for lots of people, it is also a quasi-communal activity. By contrast, tablets, phones, laptops and smartwatches are not. So do not plonk your phone on the table. Switch off all of your alerts.And have a merry Christmas.
THE REVERSE VIEW: IN DEFENCE OF CHRISTMAS DAY ONLINERY
* Who says Facebook friends aren't friends?
Some people have a very exclusive view of what 'friends and family' means. The argument that sometimes underpins this position -- that a 'friend' on Twitter or Facebook can't possibly be a real friend -- is as odd as it is condescending. (Especially as it is often the same haughty people who extol the intimacy of hand-written letters and frequently lament their passing.)
There are also lots of people for whom Christmas is a very lonely, isolating time. Social media is a genuine aide here. A friend is a friend: don't let anyone lecture you otherwise.n Photos are rarely bad
Are we better or worse off, overall, because of our penchant for taking casual snaps?
Undoubtedly, I think we are better. Those over the age of 40 often face the issue of not having many (or, sometimes, any) decent pictures to look back on during their life.
In 10 years time, you will appreciate having had the temerity to take your phone out for a few snaps on Christmas Day 2013.