Before you post, read this.
The impulse during a family Christmas dinner or New Year’s Day brunch is to pick up your phone—you want to check in with friends (or at least scroll through their Facebook uploads), Instagram your beautiful holiday table, and Tweet that hilarious thing you just overheard your grandpa say in the kitchen. But before you hashtag your entire family gathering, there are a few key rules all tech lovers should heed. We asked resident Real Simple etiquette expert Catherine Newman to outline some dos and don’ts of holiday social media use.
Get Permission to Post.
It’s true—your new baby cousin is so cute. And your toddler nieces and nephews look adorable all dressed up for dinner. But just because it’s a precious photo doesn’t mean it should automatically be uploaded.
“Because [kids and babies] can’t even imply their own consent or say anything on their own behalf, it’s nice to ask the parents as a matter of course,” says Newman. “It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to be cautious about.” Taking the photo is fine (bonus points if you mail out prints to your family members in January), but make sure you get the OK before sharing it with an audience.
Only Post With Love.
“Older people make for easy comedy,” says Newman. But just because a relative says something you deem hilarious doesn’t mean you can live-tweet the dinner conversation without pausing to think of repercussions.
“I hate the idea of taking comedic advantage of other people’s vulnerability,” says Newman. What’s more, social media life should follow the same basic etiquette rules as real life. “You wouldn’t make fun of somebody behind their back. Avoid being mean,” she says. If you know that the person would find the comment entertaining, and would welcome a little bit of positive press, feel free to send it into the universe. But check in with your motivations to ensure they are loving and genuine.
Ask Yourself a Few Key Questions.
The holidays are escalated when it comes to making memories—every moment is a photo opportunity!—but there are a few questions that should guide your posts on Christmas morning (and year-round). A few Newman suggests:
“Why am I posting this?” “Am I trying to spread some of the joy I’m feeling?” If the answer is yes, great! If you’re trying to satisfy a competitive need or impulse to brag, you’re not going to make yourself (or your followers) happier by sharing. And lastly: “Am I sharing something authentically in the spirit of sharing?” Will people find it interesting and exciting? If so, then you’re sharing. If not, you’re bragging.
Refrain from Interruption.
Yes, those pies would look great on Instagram, and your table linens have gorgeous colors. That wreath on the front door is picture-perfect, and a shot of your snow-covered lawn would garner a bunch of likes. But before you go too photo-happy, consider this: “People are missing out because they’re so preoccupied with documenting,” Newman says. “At the holidays, you would be better to pay attention and commit a moment to memory in the good old-fashioned way.”
Don’t interrupt dinner to take a bird’s-eye view shot of your table, and don’t pause the celebration for the golden shot of the tree. “It’s not unreasonable to want to make lasting memories,” says Newman. “It’s a matter of quantity, and being somewhat discerning.”
Lead by Example.
For holiday hosts who want to create a no-phones rule, Newman advises against it. “I don’t feel like you can make rules for other adults,” she says. “I don’t think people appreciate being micromanaged.” If you want a holiday that is almost-free of technology, model it yourself, and get your family members on board to set a precedent. But setting a blanket rule—or worse, having people toss their phones in a bucket when they walk in the door—is “overstepping” says Newman.
Throw Your Friends a Bone.
Don’t be a Grinch. If you see a holiday post that you deem annoying (“Look at my stack of presents!"), muster up some compassion. “People want to be seen and appreciated, and that’s not an unreasonable motivation,” says Newman. If a friend is looking for likes, or wants you to comment on their beautiful dessert, go for it, she says. “That can be your holiday act of generosity.”