With apologies to Charles Dickens, we offer this update to “A Christmas Carol.”
It was Christmas afternoon, and Scrooge had stepped outside his nephew’s house to catch his breath. Such a day! Dancing, feasting, a game of Catch-Me-Harry. The church bells were pealing, and he considered a visit to St. Swithins-in-the-Sty for services. Life had never felt so grand, so broad, so deep.
He heard a voice behind him. “Hello, Ebenezer?”
Scrooge spun around. “You again, Marley? I thought we were done. You said there would be three ghosts, and they came, and I changed my ways. Look, I am making merry! I bought the Cratchits an enormous turkey, thanks to a random boy who knew of a shop open on Christmas morning that somehow had a large bird still for sale. Your plan worked. Why am I still seeing you? Besides, I no longer believe it’s you. Last night, yes, but now? You’re a bit of undigested potato. A blot of mustard. A sprig of dodgy parsley.”
“Ebenezer, shut up. Does blaming my appearance on indigestion make any sense? Does anyone say, ‘Make sure you cook that spud, or I’ll be up all night staring at deceased business associates?’ ”
“OK, it’s you. But what do you want? What more could there be?”
Marley warned, “There is a fourth spirit. The Ghost of Social Media Christmas. She will visit you soon.”
“How shall I know when the time is upon me?”
“You’ll get a notification.”
Hours passed; Scrooge was settling down in his room, which was brightly lit. The fire was blazing, and he was eating a big dish of ice cream. He heard a bell.
“What's that?” Scrooge said. “Are you a spirit? Come, I am not afraid.”
A small, twitchy figure entered; she was looking at the palm of her hand.
“Are you the spirit of Social Me?” Scrooge wondered.
“Hang on, I have to like this.”
“Well, Spirit, I like this, too! I do so like everything these days. Merry Christmas!”
“I can’t respond until you friend me.”
“Well,” Scrooge replied, “I wasn’t aware that friend was a verb, but my eyes have been opened to so many things today. May I also companion you?”
“No,” said the spirit, staring at her hand. “Just follow me.”
“Gladly! I shall touch the hem of your garment, and off we shall go!”
“What? No. Don’t touch me. Just follow me.”
“Lead on, then. What wonders of this social media are you to show?”
“How about starting with Facebook?”
“They say a man’s life is written in his visage, for good or ill,” Scrooge said. “I can only hope my remaining years do write in the pages of my face the goodwill I feel now. I have many scowling lines in the book of my face to erase.”
“They didn’t tell me it would be grandpa-level tech support, but that’s cool. You have to get on Facebook and upload your story of the three spirits to your timeline.”
Scrooge felt a slight confusion, but passed it off as underdone parsnips. “Assuming I know what you mean, I must ask: Why?”
“To show that it happened,” said the spirit. “Duh.”
“But happen it did; why must it be loaded up to a book of faces?”
“So everyone else can see it. You connect with other people — friends, relatives, complete strangers, complete strangers’ friends and relatives — and they see your pictures of Christmas, and then they’re impressed with how perfect your Christmas was, and you get likes.”
“Pictures? We had no artist there to capture the moment.”
“That’s OK, I was there, and I took some for you. I have shots of you doing the Christmas Past thing; I ran those through the vintage filter. I have a movie of Christmas Present I can use, but you’re basically standing off to the side in your underwear in the Cratchits’ house, and it’s kinda weird. The Christmas Future stuff is awesome, though; I shot it in black and white. Look at this one.”
The spirit held out a glowing glass slab to Scrooge, and he saw a picture of himself horrified by the sight of his own tombstone. There were words on the picture.
“ ‘Lol,’ ” Scrooge said. “Who is Lol?”
“It means laughing out loud.”
“But I did not laugh out loud,” Scrooge said.
“No one ever does. Fave or like five pictures from these galleries, and we’ll upload them to your Facebook, and then we can use the best ones for Instagram. I’m also going to set you up on Twitter so you can follow Tiny Tim; he’s @cheerycrutch. And I’ll sign you up for Nextdoor Camden Town, where Mrs. Cratchit posts about burglaries and guys puking in the alley.
“You have to get on LinkedIn because if Bob posts his résumé, it’s a sign he’s ready to quit and you might want to get on that.”
“Spirit, I beg you. Tell me what this has to do with Christmas. Must I do these things? Is it not enough to keep it in my heart today and every day?”
The spirit looked up from her hand. “We could stream that on YouTube. You going around and keeping it in your heart and all. Monetize it, get some pre-roll ads, I can see that branding.”
Scrooge looked at her with utter incomprehension.
The spirit sighed. “Never mind. Have a good one.” She then vanished, as if she’d been erased by a hand that moved from right to left.