Do People Send Christmas Wishes via SMS?
Ever since the middle ages, people have been exchanging Christmas messages (and presents). Has that tradition changed much in our world where everyone is just a call, IM, or SMS message away?
The answer to that question isn’t simple. While we all run around with our eyes focused on our devices, we still value our traditions. Then there is the issue of whether an SMS message is considered less, more, or as thoughtful as a physical card. That’s when things get really interesting.
To set the stage for the discussion, let’s take a quick jaunt through the last thousand years or so to see how our Christmas card tradition evolved over the ages.
Wood Prints to Manufactured Cards
Celebrations were important parts of medieval life. Christmas time became one of the biggest as Christianity spread throughout Europe. At some point, wood engraving prints depicting religious scenes were handed out. For many years, these Christmas messages would be given in person. But the focus was primarily on celebration and the gifts given during the twelve days of Christmas.
Moving forward hundreds of years, literacy rates rose. And eventually post systems were put in place. Christmas and New Year’s letters were sent through the new Penny Post across the UK.
In the mid-1800s, Sir Henry Cole found himself too busy to answer all the letters he received. Not answering would be impolite so he approached an artist, J.C. Horsley, to create an image he could send to everyone. The scene was one Cole had imagined, and Horsley drew following his directions. The result was sent to a printer along with a generic message and room for an address.
It took several years for the Christmas card idea to catch on, but eventually the price of the cards was reduced thanks to manufacturing improvements. This meant more people could afford to send them and the tradition became widespread.
The Christmas card was invented by a time-strapped, yet caring man. He wanted to send proper replies to everyone (as it was expected) so he found a faster way to do it. Over 150 years later, SMS messaging saves you even more time. But how accepted, or expected, is it to get a Christmas greeting in a text message?
It's The Thought That Counts
I’ve read conflicting opinions on sending out physical cards each year. Many say the tradition is one that’s well worth the effort. It helps us focus on the people in our lives, especially the ones we never or rarely see. Sending a card lets them know we remember and care. And we have the opportunity to be grateful for everyone we’ve come to know.
The other argument goes that we all share every moment of our day already via social media and instant messaging apps. People no longer have the impulse to write the annual update or send the family pictures because everyone has seen them already on Facebook and other places online. What else can we possibly say in a card?
So, I guess I need to look beyond the arguments, and find some numbers. The Royal Mail Group posted the results of a survey on Christmas cards. They say 72% of people in the UK prefer traditional cards, and only 10% prefer an SMS message. Those data points, combined with sales data from the Greeting Card Association shows that in the UK, people want cards and are buying cards. I can only assume they are sending them too.
But I’m not convinced that’s the whole story. In the US, sales of cards are plummeting. And despite Royal Mail’s assertion that the card giving tradition only exists in the UK, the US has had a robust market for them in the past. Many keep and display their cards just like people in the UK.
Another article from back in 2004 discussed a study in Australia. They found people aged 16-34 prefer to get their Christmas greetings via text message. And MarketingWatch confirms this trend more recently (2016), “The trend to digital is being led by millennials, some say. ‘Many millennials we interview don’t even know the physical mailing address of their friends and family members,’ said Jason Dorsey, co-founder of the Center for Generational Kinetics, a millennial and Generation Z research firm.”
That’s not to say many millennials don’t also send or want to receive cards, but it does perhaps give a glimpse of the future. For now, the choice between sending a card or an SMS message might be based on age. Of course, there’s nothing that says you can’t do both.
Merry Christmas from all of us at fastsms. May your holiday be filled with cheerful greetings whether by card or by SMS.