Turkey, with a side of social media

  • Article by: KIM SEVERSON New York Times
  • November 22, 2012 - 5:43 PM

ATLANTA - Caleb J. Spivak was busier with his phone than his fork this Thanksgiving.

Spivak, 23, spent the holiday with his boyfriend's family in Kennesaw, Ga. His mother was in Virginia with his grandmother. His sister was in Ohio, his father and brother in Florida. And he has friends all over the country.

So he'll post photos of dinner to show his inner circle on Facebook, send out more general cheer to his 11,000 Twitter followers and post images of the prettiest dishes to In-stagram. Multiply Spivak's social media activity by that of the millions of others who will be using the platforms to record their Thanksgivings, and this year's holiday could be the most documented in history.

Almost 40 percent of the 234 million Americans older than 13 with a mobile phone now use a social network, said analyst group comScore, and the numbers are growing. In- stagram has more than doubled its members to more than 100 million in less than a year, and Facebook says Thanksgiving is one of its busiest days.

"People are sharing on such a scale for common experiences like Thanksgiving," said Mor Naaman, a professor at Rutgers University and founder of Mahaya, a social media startup. "The potential is just mind-blowing."

Of course, not everyone is thrilled about the trend. The argument is as old as the mobile phone: By trying to stay connected, we end up being less connected. "The problem is when the cellphones come out, people will take a picture, but then they'll check Facebook and check e-mail, and it becomes an obsession that distracts everyone," said Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, a pediatrician.

Once, people took a photograph and had the patience to wait to get it developed, reliving the moment well after it was over. "So document the moment, and then worry about passing it around later," she said. "You don't need these instant updates of, 'Oh, look, Grandma's eating cranberries.'"

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