In the Age of Trump, How to Create Healthy Discourse During the Holidays Through Sharing Nostalgic Family Photos, Rather Than Waging a Political Minefield of Bellicose Bickering
A family is thicker than water – except in this post-2016 election era. How many of you walked away from nine punishing rounds of political “discourse” during Thanksgiving last year, vowing never to speak to your once-favorite cousin or idiotic brother-in-law ever again?
If the data is any indication, a lot of us cut visits short or avoided Thanksgiving altogether. In a paper M. Keith Chen of UCLA and Ryne Rohla of Washington State University just released, politically divided families avoided each other last year. Using smartphone data, the researchers determined where people live versus where they spent Thanksgiving – and how long they stayed. Then they collected 2016 presidential voting data at the precinct level to approximate political leanings.
The results were startling. Compared to 2015, Democratic voters were about 5 percent less likely than Republicans to travel for Thanksgiving in 2016. Those who did travel did not significantly shorten their visits to Republican hosts. Republicans were more likely to travel to a distant Thanksgiving dinner, but they shortened their visits by over 40 minutes. Visits were also shortened proportionally to the number of political ads aired in the traveler’s home media market. For every thousand political ads, visits were shortened by 1.5 minutes. In Florida, that resulted in a 1.2-hour reduction in Thanksgiving time for politically divided families.
Given the divisive political climate, we continue to live in, things might not be much different this year. So, the big question is, how do we cross that divide? How do we enjoy a calm and (mostly) happy Thanksgiving dinner? How do we get through Christmas without resorting to sword fights with rolls of wrapping paper? How do we survive – and maybe even heal – our broken families?
Agree ahead of time to focus the conversation on what binds you together: your shared family history. Revisit photos and home movies from yesteryear. Put together a slide show of digitized photos and display it on your TV. Ask everyone to bring their favorite family memories to share over dinner. If you have a family historian, request that they tote along the big photo album that contains images going back generations. (And let them know that they don’t have to bring along great-grandma’s fruit cake recipe this year.)
My photo scanning company has digitized more than 1/2 billion family photos, and I often hear from customers about how much these photos mean to them, how many memories they conjured, how many new stories they got to hear from great-grandma because the photos jogged her memory.
Pull out the photos. Share the stories. Maybe instead of reaming each other out this year, you’ll reminisce. Instead of lunging at each other, you’ll laugh. Instead of screaming at each other, you’ll cry together. How far would you travel for that kind of togetherness?
Published by, Mitch Goldstone, President & CEO, ScanMyPhotos.com