Tech Watch: Giving Thanks
Michael J. Haas presents four easy steps to an annoyance-free Thanksgiving.
It's that time of the year again, Thanksgiving – the time when everyone gets together with their families and sits down at one big table (unless you're still at the kids table). Ideally, Thanksgiving is a time filled with delicious food, warm fireplaces, and football. Realistically, this is a time to meet up with the people you haven't seen for ages…and then realize why you haven't seen them for ages.
Luckily, thanks to social media, having an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday experience will not be as difficult or painstaking as in the past. I've compiled an effective strategy on how to use technology to make this Thanksgiving annoyance-free – or maybe at least less annoying than dinners before the digital age.
Step 1: Travel. There are a million and a half travel sites to help you find the best hotel and/or flight for your holiday travels. Anyone who owns a TV has seen the "Priceline Negotiator" and the odd claymation hotels.com "smart guy," but someone you may not know is the adorable Hipmunk Chipmunk. A founder from the popular news aggregator site, Reddit, founded Hipmunk.com to make finding a flight and hotel incredibly easy. Simply type in your start/end locations, and Hipmunk will generate a number of different flights for you organized by price, time, duration, or "agony." The site is incredibly lightweight, and even has a mobile app.
Step 2: Finding Small Talk. One of the worst parts of Thanksgiving is finding things to talk about with your obscure relatives. An easy way to prep for these awkward chit-chat sessions is to take a brief glance at their Facebook profile (if they have one). If the person is in the 55-plus crowd, you should probably ask them about Farmville because they most likely have an account and have sent you over 600 Farmville requests. If the person is 30-55, start asking about their kids (look at the Facebook profile to remember their names). If the person is 20-30, check their relationship status because they probably have a new fiancé/significant other, and that individual is going to be awkwardly hovering all weekend so you better get to know them now. And finally, if the person is younger than 20, they've probably sent you a friend request already and are using the social networking site to make new friends, so ask them about any new people in their lives.
Step 3: Eating. On Thanksgiving Day, Instagram is going to be flooded with pictures of food. I'm issuing a PSA on behalf of everyone on Facebook and Instagram right now: unless you are eating the most delicious – and in someway unique (think: not turkey, stuffing, or mashed potatoes) – meal in existence and feel the need to show me exactly what you're eating…don't take a photo. Instead, if you really want to tell someone about your meal, turn to your Uncle sitting next to you and say, "Hey, Uncle _____, this food is really great! Do you agree? Can you pass the cranberry relish?" A little real-world social interaction will do you some good, and this is coming from a guy who spends over 12 hours a day online.
Step 4: Football. After we've all eaten and taken our post-turkey naps, the time has come for football. However, in some situations, you may find yourself without a television or Internet. Luckily, as long as you have your smartphone, you can stay up to date with the games. If you do have an Internet connection, just Google "Texans score" or "Redskins Score" and Google will keep you up to date, despite your lack of a visual. If you don't have Internet, follow your favorite football team on Twitter via SMS. For example, if I wanted updates on the Redskins game texted directly to my phone, I would send "follow redskins" to 40404. If you start to get too many messages, or when Thanksgiving is over, just text "STOP" to 40404 and Twitter will stop sending you updates.
Hopefully with the use of technology, we can keep Thanksgiving focused on family, friends, and football. And, if you ever run into any trouble, just tweet at me (@michaeljhaas), and I'll be happy to walk you through your digital Thanksgiving crisis.
Michael Haas can be contacted at Epic@ErieReader.com.