#TurnDownForTurkey: What Thanksgiving Really Means in 2014

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#TurnDownForTurkey SmartPhone Challenge

My sister and me in a pre-smartphone Thanksgiving.

There are quite a few ways we like to think about how Thanksgiving began. Some versions are warm and fuzzy. Others are down right disappointing. Regardless of what you believe, or choose to believe, or choose to disregard, it’s what Thanksgiving is about now that’s most relevant.

For many of us the holiday is symbolic of our human need for community. Our need for human interaction and celebration, with a little sustenance thrown in for good measure.

I remember when Thanksgiving really was just that. A day full of cooking, laughter, hugs, watching the Macy’s parade, watching football, sleeping, eating, eating again – We’re sure you all know the drill. It all revolved around not just being together, but also being present.

But in today’s modern world Thanksgiving has become very, very different. Not necessarily for better or for worse. Just different.

We’re all there, but are we really all present?

Now that we have cell phones, well mini wifi-enabled computers, we’re hyper in touch with the digispace, but sort of out of touch with face-to-face. We know we rely on our phones to get us through the day. We pull it out to get a recipe. We may pull it out to tweet a #turkeyselfie, facebook, or google search to end an argument. We pull it out to constantly refresh our inboxes, check in on work projects, and worst of all, to shop (no more waiting for Black Friday, the deals start on Thanksgiving day people!).

It’s a lot. It’s so useful. So functional. And it has certainly made Thanksgiving dishes substantially better (TY Food & Wine app!). In fact, 44% of recipe searches came from mobile on Thanksgiving Day last year, and it’s already trending higher this year.

But, I still find myself thinking about the Thanksgivings we enjoyed pre-smartphone. Somehow I wasn’t bored, the food tasted just as good, and I felt relaxed. I have very vivid memories of live conversations, endless games of pass the pigs, and “accidentally” adding too much rum to the rum bread pudding.

So…what would it mean if we got rid of our smart devices for the day? If we turned off our phones <gasp>,  turning down our digital connection and turning up our in-person, in-the-moment connection?

I’m not sure how it’s going to go folks, but I’m doing it. And I’m challenging you to do it too.

Tell me how it goes (the day after obviously!) with #TurnDownForTurkey!

thanksgiving cupcakes

Thanksgiving, minus connection.

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Yesterday I spent an amazing day with family, lounging around, watching football, and eating. I made calls to the people closest to me and took around three “cat naps.” What I didn’t do, was log on to a computer.

Believe me, it wasn’t easy, but when your 3G iPad isn’t connecting to the internet, there’s not much y
ou can do – I couldn’t even play Words With Friends. I went to my phone to tweet “Happy Thanksgiving,” but other than that I was pretty much in real world mode.

Looking back, it was genuinely nice to not do anything with people I care about. To smell the flavors of delicious foods, watch the Macy’s Day Parade (McDonald’s, that is), and simply sit. But at the time, it was uniquely frustrating. Even the book I turned to for solace started to annoy me (I’m finishing up Brian Solis’ The End of Business As Usual). 

I felt disconnected. I felt like things weren’t in their right places – like I wasn’t in the right place. There’s something about being on Facebook and on Twitter, checking-in on Foursquare, Stumbling articles etc. that gives me a sense of belonging – even if it is virtual.

In this biz, we know that social networking allows us to form virtual “communities.” But, these virtual communities are becoming more real than ever for those in my generation. The reason I was frustrated yesterday, was not because I couldn’t play Angry Birds, it was because I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with the people I not only interact with, but I also identify with and go to for advice. Some of those people are part of my social community.

Am I crazy? Are these communities so real that they can be missed just like any other relative or close friend on Thanksgiving? Or, is it more about the gratification of instant communication that our social communities can usually provide?

The more I think about it, the more I know that our social communities are becoming a part of our every day realities. Holding on to this insight will be and is the key for marketers when coming up with a social strategy or even just a singular post.

Our social community – who we choose to follow, Like, share with, RT and mention – are dear to us. We trust our community with our attention (which is hard to come by for marketers these days) and that means that every single thing we read or view needs to have a purpose. The closer these online communities become to an individual’s heart, the more important it is for marketers to be careful with the content they provide and context in which they provide it.

What are you doing to make content that’s important to your communities?