In our smartphone-saturated, always-on age, the conventional wisdom is that holidays are a time for unplugging from the web and switching off from the devices that ordinarily dominate our lives. However, you don’t have to go with the flow and take a tech break over the holiday — here are six good reasons why you might want to stay on the grid rather than off it.
1. See Friends And Family
Christmas is a time for bringing the family together, but that’s not always possible — if there’s someone you know in a different part of the world then you can use anything from Skype to Snapchat to send them a greeting.
The conversation around the dinner table might have dried up since everyone in the family got themselves a smartphone but our high-tech gadgets can just as easily bring people together — and there’s no better time than the holidays.
Use something like Google Hangouts and you can set up a video call with everyone in the family at once, free of charge. Even if you’re not in a particularly sociable mood, there might be someone who would love to get a call from you.
2. Track Santa Claus
How does Santa make it round every child’s home over the course of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning? Whether you want to use the NORAD original or Google’s alternative, there’s lots of fun to be had for the young and the young at heart.
It’s all a far cry from the days when we used to leave out a mince pie and glass of sherry for Father Christmas and leave it at that. Both sites offer a range of games, interactive elements and animations to add to the festive spirit.
Once December rolls around the Microsoft Bing-powered NORAD site will display a 3D globe charting Santa’s progress, while Google is promising an exclusive look at the dashboard technology that powers his sleigh.
3. Entertain Your Guests
Keeping all of your friends, family and random visitors from down the road happy at Christmastime is no easy feat, but you don’t have to struggle alone — there are enough entertainments and diversions available to please even the crankiest of guests.
You don’t want everyone huddled over their own individual glowing screens for the whole of the holidays, so look for activities that get everyone involved: Heads Up! works across all the smartphones in the room and is simple to play while Wheel Of Fortune is Chromecast-compatible for beaming to the big screen.
You’re going to have adapt this one based on the number and age of the people you’re with, as well as the tech you have available, but from YouTube karaoke to console sports games there are plenty of options to choose from.
4. Catch Up On Your Reading
Technology may be to blame for shortening attention spans but it also gives us access to an unimaginable wealth of content from all over the world — and there’s never enough time during the year to catch up on it all.
Dust off your e-reader, work through your starred tweets, make inroads into Instapaper and check in on all the dozens of articles you’ve saved to Pocket and promptly forgotten about. From flagged email messages to old bookmarks, you can clear the decks ready for another avalanche of incoming content in the New Year.
If you really don’t have any reading to catch up on then there are no shortage of places on the web where you can find lengthy articles of interest: Try Matter or Longreads if you want something to curl up with while the rest of the family tunes into Home Alone.
5. Get Hold Of Some Great Deals
There’s no point heading out into the cold, crowded streets for a January bargain when you can simply point-and-click from the comfort of your home laptop once the turkey and trimmings have been cleared away — if you’re looking for the cheapest prices, try stocking up on Christmas gear for 2015.
Apple’s 12 Days Of Gifts hasn’t appeared so far this year, but there’s still time for it to show up. The app is often a great way to pick up premium apps, movies and music for free, though the quality of what’s on offer can vary from day to day.
Of course Christmas is about much more than shopping and consumerism, but staying online while everyone else is dozing in front of the TV can save you some cash — especially if you have friends with January birthdays.
6. Capture The Memories
At this point it’s probably safe to say that there are now too many selfies on the Internet, but just because something is overused doesn’t mean it’s inherently wrong: your smartphone will have a decent camera and video recorder built into it, so make the most of them.
Be careful not to miss those special family moments in your eagerness to document them in digital form, but the video clips and images you take now will be worth looking back on in Christmases to come, and your friends can probably put up with a limited amount of them on Facebook too.
Modern-day technology certainly has the potential to ruin Christmas and get in the way of family time, but it can do the exact opposite too — if you know how to make the most of it. Stay safe and enjoy the holidays!