I happen to think we’re living in an incredible time — this Age of Information. The Digital Age. For all of the negative aspects of our changing society (over-saturation and possible desensitization, anonymous bullying, dysfunctional communication skills, sensory overload, etc.), there’s so much positive potential. With the internet, a force so big and life-changing, it could never be good OR bad. No matter how many reasons an expert/blogger/fear-monger gives for why our Digital Age is ruining the world, something this influential has to be good AND bad — the positive with the negative, the yin with the yang.
We share our stories, connect with strangers across the world in seconds, and experience our shared humanity in a way that increases tolerance and a global community. Thanks to the ease with which we spread information, it is harder for the bad guys to get away with lies, cover-ups, and generally bad things. (Exhibit A: The Director of the CIA, Secret-Keeper Extraordinaire, outed for having a marital affair via emails. Exhibit B: Edward Snowden. Exhibit C: Syria.) This Age of Information levels the playing field, in a way, with the Great Secret-Keepers of the world.
But what about when that Secret-Keeper is a parent? Where does that leave Santa in the Digital Age?
I’m not saying that Santa is a bad thing (clearly I don’t think so), but he is a myth. And when kids are getting connected to the Internet at younger and younger ages, how long until the fabrication is impossible to keep going? How long until a YouTube video ruins the fun for hundreds of thousands of “connected” kids?
The Internet seems to be responding, with parents finding inventive ways to convince their kids and app companies finding new ways to cash in. While one can definitely make the argument that this extra fluff nudges Santa from harmless magical myth to well-constructed lie, it might just be a new era for Santa. Maybe he has to keep up with the times, as much as anything.
And times are certainly changing. Santa 2.0 is now the center of controversy in the media — the NORAD tracker is too militaristic (debate!), FOX News pundit Megyn Kelly insists the “fact” that Santa is Caucasian (debate!), and the annual War on Christmas always incites emotional debate, with Kris Kringle in the center of the media storm. (And what are we debating, here? A fictional character? On the news?)
But then there’s the good with the bad.
While our kids might have easier access to the truth, the Internet also makes it incredibly easy to connect with Mr. Claus — possibly making the entire experience more magical. At least for a modern kid with modern standards. Nowadays kids don’t understand why Mom can’t just “text a photo of this toy to Santa,” as my 4-year-old has innocently assumed. If kids can Skype with their family halfway across the world, why can’t they just video-chat their list to Santa?
And it doesn’t look like there’s any going back once Santa gets digitalized.
Here are 15 examples of how kids digitally connect with Santa:
My, how far this myth has come!
What used to be children listening for imaginary reindeer hooves has turned into kids watching CGI elves running around their living room on their iPad screen. It’s so convincing!
But here’s the question: Is this Santa a sustainable Santa? Will the truth inevitably outweigh the myth?
Santa is, without a doubt, in the Digital Age with the rest of us. But will he survive?