For all those alone with a gadget this Xmas
Don't think for a moment that technology always represents progress. However, there are some for whom, at this time, it represents a lone hope.
All joking aside.
It isn't easy, but I'll try.
Technology doesn't always represent progress. It just thinks it does.
Gadgets inspire an astounding degree of self-indulgence.
They make you believe you have 5,000 friends, when you're lucky to have 5. They let you swear at the president and the pope, without them knowing who you are. They let you taunt, abuse, flatter, worship, preen, boast, and whine.
And all from the comfort of your own bedroom, sofa, restroom, cubicle, or tram.
But Christmas, the holiday season, isn't about you. It's about family and togetherness and shared experiences. At least that's what all the adverts tell me.
Yet some people will spend Christmas all alone.
Perhaps they have no family left. Perhaps they have fallen out with their families to such a degree that nothing can be repaired. Perhaps their lovers have left them, their children have disowned them, or death has visited their loved ones with a cruel finality.
Perhaps their career has overtaken them to the extent that they suddenly look around and there's no one else there.
Or maybe they've messed up their own lives to the degree that they just can't bear to see anyone at all.
They may have been forgotten -- or feel like they have. They may have had a falling-out that they hope is temporary but have no idea how to stop the madness.
Those will be the people who, on Xmas Day, will be sitting with their gadgets -- not to play with them, but because they offer a lone hope.
Someone might call out of the blue. Someone might text a message of forgiveness, thought, understanding, or even love. Someone might send a picture, a song, or a video that will lift the lonely person's heart from its basement of numbness or despair.
Before mobile gadgets came along, those people might have had a few TV channels that peddled the ideas of Bing Crosby and declared that "It's A Wonderful Life" -- which they just knew had to be a lie.
They might have had a landline with crackly reception and a cord tied to the wall.
Then, lonely people sat in essential silence, willing the minutes and hours to go by and for the next dawn to break.
The mailman didn't come on Christmas Day. In any case, what he usually delivered was formulaic Christmas cards designed largely by those who couldn't get a job doing anything else and written by those who had just written 50 others.
With gadgets, they can believe in the unexpected on Xmas Day itself. They can hope that their lonely Xmas Day might be interrupted, brightened, lifted by someone's spontaneous and immediate thought.
It could be an e-mail or a text or a call. It might say: "I'm sorry," "I miss you," or "I wish you were here." It might be a picture of a grandchild, a lost love, a gathering, or a vacation.
Most importantly, there's the hope that it won't only be personal, it will be spontaneous. It won't necessarily say: "I'm sending you a Christmas card or thought, because that's what I'm supposed to do."
It might feel more like: "Hey, I'm actually thinking of you right now, this minute, and I wish things were different."
For all those who are surrounded by those they love -- or at least most of them -- might I offer one thought?
Think about one person you know who might be alone this Xmas. Think about how, if you can't be with them, you could use your gadget not merely to offer them a few seconds of your time, but to make their day in a way they would never expect.
Then act on it. Instead of checking into Facebook or Foursquare, instead of tweeting something profoundly inane, take your gadget and do the one thing -- whatever that might be -- to make the alone person's Christmas memorable.
Apologize, flatter, admit, cajole, warm, embrace, tickle, inspire, reveal, or wish.
They just might appreciate it. They just might be hoping for it.
To all those who have offered their comments, corrections, frustrations, bile, spittle, incomprehension, and even occasional charm, laughter, and praise to me by all sorts of electronic means this year, I wish you a very peaceful and happy holiday season.
I hope it is everything you would wish it to be.