Netiquette: What's a festive netizen to do?

In our very connected society, technology can be consummately useful at holiday gatherings or ultimately alienating.

LONDON Christmas is a convivial time of year when people get together for celebrations and conversation. It's all about human contact, so it's important to be mindful of how you use your digital devices.

It's fine if they're used to facilitate get-togethers and spread seasonal cheer. But Christmas is a real event, not a virtual one, so it's important to discard the phones, tablets and computers to enjoy festive celebrations in the real world.

Christmas cards are still an invaluable and personal way of keeping in touch with far-flung friends and relations. In these tight times, however, you might want to cut down the number of cards you send. It's fine to explain to your nearest and dearest that you won't be sending them cards a personalized seasonal message by text, phone call or email  is quite acceptable.

Avoid sending generic e-cards. They're lazy and impersonal, and many people will find them lacking in Christmas spirit or just baffling. If you're emailing instead of sending a Christmas card, be sure to send unique   and individual   messages to each of your recipients. Group emails are to be avoided.

It's fine to put general seasonal messages on social networking sites, but avoid posting compromising photos. This is the time of year when we all let our hair down, but not everyone will appreciate the evidence being posted in cyberspace for all to see.

Don't get too carried away with seasonal cyber-cheer. Spamming your friends and followers with endless Christmas wishes and updates will soon get tedious.

Christmas Day is all about socializing with family and friends, enjoying good food and sharing good conversation. Don't spend the big day glued to your phone, rather than interacting with your loved ones.

Ban all phones from the Christmas table. Eating together is all about sociability, and it's a real insult to the host and cook to be transfixed by your texts rather than the meal and table talk.

Be a good digital host. Technology is part of our everyday life, and Christmas is no exception. If you have friends or family staying in your home, make sure you have your WiFi password on hand. Offer guests access to your network, and hope that everyone adheres to good festive netiquette.

Christmas is the perfect time to make a video call, but choose your timing carefully. Nobody wants to talk to virtual visitors during lunch or present opening.

Remember the power of the written word. If you are the lucky recipient of a generous present or lavish hospitality, writing a proper thank you letter by hand is a much more elegant gesture than texting or emailing, and will be noted and appreciated. It is fine to email or text your thanks for small presents.

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