High-tech Holidays

Ever since my family switched from whispered phone conversations about who wants what to a 100% adoption rate of Amazon wish lists, Christmas shopping (a task I generally loathe) has gotten much, much easier for me, and I actually get stuff I need and want. The only downside is the lack of spontaneity introduced when everyone knows what they’re getting well in advance of ripping open any wrapping paper. As much as I love the Amazon wish list, and hope never to return to the days of opening poorly fitting sweaters, I think we can do better.

One of my favorite places to shop for odd-ball gifts is Etsy. I mean, where else can you find hand-carved wooden iPad stands, or pillows custom-embroidered with an image of me picking my nose? The problem, of course, is that you have to sift through a ton of crap to find the gems. Etsy has always cultivated a community of people who will hunt out the best stuff for you and then create best-of lists for others to use, which I appreciate. However, this Christmas I discovered a new feature.

You can now search for gifts for people by letting Etsy mine their Facebook profile “likes” and then suggest appropriate gifts. Dad gets a home-made painting of Obama and Rush Limbaugh kung-fu fighting! The girlfriend gets vintage Laura Palmer gear (remember Twin Peaks?)! OK, not really. I know you two occasionally read this blog. But, the point is that I could have gotten these things!

As more and more information about us and our likes and dislikes gets strewn about the web, I’m sure more applications like this will keep popping up. I know everyone is sure we’re heading for some dystopian future because of this trend, but I’m actually pretty optimistic about it. Imagine how rude the person will seem when they approach me at a cocktail party in 2020 and simply start asking me questions without first consulting my online profile. Seems like such a waste of time, when we could instead jump right into the meat of the conversation we were destined to have about why we hate each others’ views. I’m mostly kidding. Seriously, I think this could be cool as long as there’s a nice balance between privacy and utility. I’d like to see more of this kind of thing.

Happy shopping everyone. I wish you a merry capitalist utopia and a debt-free new year.