On the fourth Thursday of November, Americans get together for a day fill of food, football and family. Today’s Thanksgiving is far from the original celebration of Thanksgiving in 1621. I think it is important in today’s media and technology-controlled world to look back at the traditions. How have they changed?
Thanksgiving began in November of 1621 when the Pilgrims’ had their first successful corn harvest. Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast including a group of Native American allies. This celebratory feast was a three-day festival.. This is remembered as the “first thanksgiving” even though the term “Thanksgiving” was not yet used. The meal is said to have featured fowl, deer and due to low sugar supplies and no ovens, there were NO DESSERTS—all very different from today’s Thanksgiving holiday.
It was not until 1817 that New York officially accepted an annual Thanksgiving holiday. Though, in 1827, magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale launched a campaign to create the national holiday of Thanksgiving. It took her 36 years but in 1863, Abraham Lincoln listened and at height of the civil war, he established the national holiday of Thanksgiving.
What was once a religious, wound healing, celebratory holiday for harvest and for the success of the Pilgrims’ is now a very consumer driven holiday. How did this happen? How has digital disruption changed the tradition of thanksgiving?
I think first and foremost—digital disruption has changed the conversation. Lets look back to my childhood. Kids didn’t have IPads; they didn’t have IPhones. They had books, puzzles—technology didn’t rule our lives. In contrast, this weekend I saw first hand how the conversation has changed. When I was younger, the focus was the conversation, it was the dinner table.
Interestingly, I think back to the eating dinner with your family campaign probably many years ago now. How is that different today? Are we still trying to sit down with our families? I think so. Though, how is it different? It was evident at my own thanksgiving and even more evident when researching statistics on social media use during this year’s thanksgiving. Is the conversation now only about social media, about online purchases, viral videos, crazy research published on one’s Facebook Newsfeed, about black Friday plans, and cyber Monday deals? My aunt, an avid social media user to aid in her real estate business, says, “The conversation is always about the Newsfeed, and I am at fault too. The News Feed provides convenience. The Internet allows me to know anything I want and I take advantage of that. But asking me if the conversation is changed/worsened? I don’t think it is worse but it is definitely different.”
With the many conversations around this subject I both loved/hated this weekend, people seem to get very heated when discussing the subject of technology, of social media! One conversation came up often, one that was very similar to the one we debated in class, “Is social media making us dumber and more socially awkward?” I personally think it is crazy to put the affect in such jarring terms. The truth is social media and technology, in my eyes, has changed things-changed the conversation to things like discussing Snap Chat’s live feed of the AMA awards and maybe even Taylor Swift’s performance with crazy eyes. It has changed the conversation and with that it has changed the tradition. Though, I am not sure it is worse.
Let’s take a look at statistics on this years Thanksgiving and social media use. Scroll through the presentation below developed by Salesforce Marketing Cloud. The total post volume in the 24 hours of Thanksgiving was 718,931 which is based 650 million data sources from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, news sites, and more. Interestingly the most posting occurred between 5 pm and 4 am—hours when people would be eating Thanksgiving dinner with their families, watching football, and then beginning to black Friday shop. This is fairly intriguing—hours when you would think people are with their families, preparing and eating dinner, having conversation, and even going to bed are the hours when people are most frequently posting on social media sites.
Are families still having conversation or is everyone on their phones? Additionally, this research looks at what is being talked about online. The fourth slide breaks it down—50,000 people are mentioning cyber Monday and the excitement/anticipation for Black Friday, 21,000 people were discussing/mentioning the protests in Ferguson and planning to use #BlackoutBlackFriday, and finally 8,000 consumers were mentioning excitement for free shipping offers during Black Friday. My question is where is the mentioning of family, of cooking, of traditions? Is the conversation on Thanksgiving now solely on consuming—consuming food, getting ready to be consumers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? I think the evidence is there.
Yes, the conversation has changed. Now, I would like to look at how digital disruption has changed the traditions. This infographic demonstrates Thanksgiving then and Thanksgiving now. I think you’ll all enjoy knowing that Turkey wasn’t even served at the first thanksgiving! I kind of feel lied to! Well what are the traditions? Let’s look at them then and now.
In simpler terms,
Is the glitz and the glam of Thanksgiving now more important than the traditions? Is the Macy’s Day Parade now the tradition of Thanksgiving? Is football? Is Black Friday? After reading this article, I know I am not the only one asking these questions. Read this article here and make sure to look at the graphs below.
Author Kit Daniels states, “Black Friday is more popular than Thanksgiving, according to Twitter, highlighting America’s trend away from family life and toward Idiocracy-style consumerism.”
This article is very telling of how digital disruption has changed Thanksgiving, how it has changed tradition. Black Friday, which is the day after Thanksgiving, is considered as the first day of the Christmas shopping season. Black Friday was stated nearly 25% more often than Thanksgiving at their peaks on Twitter, 77,400 times vs. 59,100 which was revealed by social media analytics. See graphs below:
Based on these graphs, we are able to see that Black Friday has taken over social media use on Thanksgiving and also has begun taking over the holiday itself. Black Friday leads to more and more business openings on Thanksgiving day, forcing people to work which takes away from a holiday meant to be spent with one’s family. It has become a holiday centered around consumerism, technology, and social media use all on the Internet, our televisions, and in our laps and hands on laptops and cellphones.
I would like to share a little about the digital disruption I experienced this weekend. I created a photo gallery of my Thanksgiving experience filled with my social media use as well as those whose social media use I came across. Let’s think about this: Was there marshmallows at the first Thanksgiving? Were babies on cell phones (LOL) ?
What about the food? How has that changed? Take a look at this infographic below:
I think it is fairly alarming how much the traditions have changed and how many people are talking about it!
I thought it would be interesting to see what Mindy Wasserman has to say on the subject. Mindy is a 360° Integrated Marketing & Content Specialist who has tremendous experience in marketing, business, and management related to the following organic & natural products, consumer packaged goods, health & wellness, beverage, media & entertainment. She specializes in video & digital storytelling, content/social media strategy, brainstorming/ideation, and partnership marketing. Due to her experience, I thought she would be the perfect person to interview in regard to Thanksgiving and its’ digital disruption. While we spoke on this subject a lot in person, Mindy chose to email me her answers to the questions below.
- What do you think the word digital disruption means?
-Changes to how we communicate/interact on both a personal and business level through integration of digital technology/social media
-It’s changed the way we work, the way we live, and the way we make and maintain friendships.
- What is your favorite thanksgiving tradition?
-Spending quality time with family and friends
- How has that tradition changed today?
-Yes… Through technology I’m able to connect virtually with friends & family (that can’t be physically present) in a more meaningful way
- What do you think digital disruption has done to conversation? Are conversations different because of technology/media/etc.?
-Email and social media communications aren’t better or worse than in-person ones; they’re just different.
-They complement each other.
-The online world isn’t taking the place of the offline one; it’s enhancing it.
-Regardless, conversations have changed. For example, In some cases less personal and easily misinterpreted and in some cases more interesting because people have access to more information.
- How has technology changed your job? Do you focus on different things around a holiday like Thanksgiving?
-My job has become more 24/7 because of technology.
-My job focus doesn’t change because it is Thanksgiving or any other holiday.
-However, some of my clients will market more heavily around certain holidays. For example ‘Imagine’ does a lot of marketing online and offline during Thanksgiving because their soups and broths can be used in many holiday recipes.
- How do people market to the holidays through technology?
-Email, Email and more email
-Mobile…Digital coupons, shopping apps, beacon technology… more and more consumers are using their mobile devices for shopping. Many retailers are using beacon technology to send push notifications or marketing materials right to the phones of individuals who are in or around their stores.
- Can you tell me a little about your job and how you cater to today’s media controlled world?
-Job Function….Integrated Marketing and Content Specialist
-See below links for more in depth explanation
-How Do I Cater….?
-Good question… generally don’t cater to it but rather determine how to use it to my and my client’s benefit.
-As an integrated marketer, I am channel agnostic.I work with clients to understand their marketing objectives/goals and identify the best programs/marketing channels (online and/or offline) to achieve these goals.
-Although I will say, having a digital footprint (e.g. website, FB, Pinterest, etc) is a cost of doing business in this marketing environment.
- Do you think “social media is making us dumb”?
-Yes and no…
-The Pluses…There are no boundaries–we have exposure to the world–globalized voices, Immediate access to information. Knowledge well beyond simply what we are taught
-The negatives …Lots of misinformation, diminished face to face/interpersonal and grammar skills, diminished analytical skills due to ‘Copycatting’… getting answers and insights from social networks without doing any actual thinking
- Is Thanksgiving now a consumer/purchase driven holiday?
-Yes…As long as I can remember it has always been that–the official start of the holiday shopping season.
-FYI… The term “Black Friday” was coined in the 1960s to mark the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. “Black” refers to stores moving from the “red” to the “black,” back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit. Ever since the start of the modern Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start to a bustling holiday shopping season.
- Did you prefer life/ work/holidays before media and technology were a part of everyday life?
-Definitely pros & cons to media/technology but overall it has enhanced my life.
-Ultimately, I choose how and when I engage with both. Sometimes to be more productive and knowledgeable and sometimes just for mindless fun.
Now, please take a look at some photos of my Thanksgiving food festivities. Some new traditions, some old.
So what’s next, what’s the future of this digitally disturbed holiday? How do we move away from Black Friday deals being the focus of social media use and the focus of this holiday? How do we change the conversation back to who we met that day, or this crazy thing we saw and not some crazy thing we saw on our News Feed?
What I thought would be the use of technology, social media etc. to find new recipes and post family pictures, is not the case. Rachel King, for Between The Lines, explains, “roughly 278,000 posts have been stamped with the hashtag “#blackfriday” and another 8,000 labeled “#deals” versus just 85,000 with “#Thanksgiving.”” So what is this about? Why are we so focused on social media and consumerism on Thanksgiving instead of the holiday and its’ history. The answer is Walmart, Target, Best Buy are all getting in our heads, according to this article. So has the conversation changed? Are the traditions different? Is Black Friday now more important to the vast majority than the holiday of Thanksgiving? Has Thanksgiving been DIGITALLY DISTURBED?
I think yes.
What do YOU think?
Check out this video and see what my friends, classmates, family, and maybe a dog or two have to say about how social media and technology influenced their Thanksgiving’s (as well as a few clips of my personal snap chats from the weekend). Almost everyone felt that social media and technology were a part of their Thanksgiving’s–some thought so in a positive way, some in a negative way and one attests to not really using it at all! You will see the difference in how people of different ages discuss Thanksgiving and and how if, for them, it was DIGITALLY DISTURBED.
Check it out:
So, I think we can all be sure that whether one’s opinion is negative or positive, Thanksgiving has been DIGITALLY DISTURBED.
Please share your opinions below. Maybe we can start another debate. Is social media and technology going to change Christmas and Hanukah celebrations this year?