“Happy New Year,” and Empty PhrasesHolidays — By Andrew Oxenham on January 8, 2013 at 7:00 am
[Editor's note: in choosing an image for this post, it seemed appropriate to select perhaps the simplest and least innovative picture I could find. This may be to the author's frustration, but hopefully you, the reader, will find the humor in it. Bah humbug, and all that.]
As with any type of major event or holiday, the World Wide Web exploded this Christmas and New Years Eve. Tweets were tweeted, photos were posted, and Facebook statuses were updated at a furious pace. Now I don’t generally mind people updated their virtual worlds, in fact I think people should be intentional about keeping their digital representations of themselves up-to-date. Yet during these major events, I am deeply irked by most of what was posted because, well, frankly, it’s garbage. It’s as if, with the holidays around and then a new year approaching, people threw out their thoughtfulness and sensibility, and replaced it with cliches and platitudes.
Let me first note that I understand the role of tradition, and I’m in no way saying one should not repeat the traditional “Happy New Year” or “Merry Christmas” year after year. Repeating traditional greetings is a fine thing to do and there are many traditions people should actively participate in. What I am saying is that we need to stop being so banal.
Seth Godin wrote a blog noting that in order to be a successful blogger one needs to post constantly, push through the doldrums of un-inspiration and just post. I agree with Seth mostly, but I would add this caveat: one should post with the intention of contributing something new, original, unique, etc. to the arena in which they are contributing. In the event that one cannot contribute something new, profitable, unique, etc. one has two options: either
a) Post merely the traditional greeting (i.e. “Happy New Year everyone”).
b) Remain silent.
Better to be thought a fool (or in this case a humbug) than to open your [digital] mouth and remove all doubt.
New Years Day I sat gathered around a large dining room table filled with my immediate and extended family. Given that I’m the wordy one of the family, one of my relatives looked at me before we began feasting on homemade things and, raising her Cadillac margarita-filled glass said “Andrew, would you give us a cheer for the New Year?” I screwed up my face in contemplation and said, “You know I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, how to give a New Year cheer without being cliche and–” I was immediately cut off by my jokester cousin who said “Aww to heck with it, Happy New Year everybody!” and with a resounding laugh, my family toasted to the New Year. Spontaneous simplicity infused itself into our conversation and we avoided sounding cliche. Unlike a conversation, a Facebook status or a Twitter post is a premeditated piece of writing and as such it reflects upon us in a very different way than a passing comment or remark. Be cognizant of what you are posting, to whom you are posting, and how what you post reflects upon your image.
People are constantly making resolutions for the New Year so add this one to the top of your list: don’t be cliche. Avoid cliches at all cost, even if it means saying nothing. Now go back and purge your Facebook of its yawn-inducing bromides, clear your Twitter feed of its platitudes and go post some authentic, original, unique content.