The Joy of Skypesgiving

If you have a laptop and an Internet connection, there is no reason to get on a plane this week.

Kara Gordon / The Atlantic

This week, 42 million Americans will travel for Thanksgiving. They will be among the throngs pretending that a jogging stroller is a “small personal item.” They will be reminded, once again, how difficult it is to explain veganism to Aunt Patsy.

There is another group, meanwhile, that will rebel. They will eschew the planes, the trains, and the automobiles that make up Turkey Day’s hors d’oeuvres. They will opt, instead, for “Skypesgiving.” The Kernel reports that 14.1 million people used Skype to connect with loved ones on Thanksgiving in 2013, and that number has probably only increased since.

I’d like to modestly make the case for this virtual feast. In fact, I’d go even further than Leslie Horn, who argued in Gizmodo that “There’s nothing wrong with a FaceTime Thanksgiving.” A Voice-Over-IP celebration, if done right, can be superior to the real thing. Here’s why:

  1. You will save loads of money. If you live close enough to drive, it's worth it to go IRL, as gas is dirt cheap this year. But a medium-haul flight on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is still nearly $400—far more than you’d typically pay. All this for a too-brief and randomly chosen holiday, which has problematic roots depending whom you ask, and occurs just a month before you have to make the schlep all over again. Might as well go home at literally any other time, like, say, summer, if you live north of the Mason-Dixon line.
  2. Your family will be less likely to fight. As I wrote in a piece explaining why families fight on holidays, one common trigger for inter-relative conflict is the “social allergen,” or a habit that seems minor at first, but gets more irritating with repetition. These cumulative annoyances—your uncle intoning, “guess I’m just not politically correct!”—are more likely to happen over the course of a four-hour, boozy dinner than a 30-minute video call.

  3. No squabbling over where you’re going. If you’re married or em-partnered in some way, Skype Thanksgiving precludes a spat that otherwise begins yearly in mid-June: Which in-laws’ house are we going to this year? It also eliminates the awkward dinner-here, dessert-there peace settlement, which usually ends in long, gaseous hours on the road. This way everyone gets to see your face, and you don't even have to put pants on.

  4. Less pressure. It’s hard to cook for people you see once a year, especially when you’re preparing dishes you only make once a year. If your relatives do the cooking, you’ll feel overly obligated to help and/or heap on the praise and/or clean up. If you do the cooking, you’ll be too concerned you messed up grandma's famous stuffing recipe to enjoy yourself. On the Internet, no one knows you accidentally used cumin instead of cinnamon.

The caveat is that I'm not American, and therefore perhaps not qualified to dispense such counsel. But just as it took a Frenchman to hold up a mirror to democracy in 19th-century America, it may take a Russian to convince you that your holiday is best enjoyed through a screen. At least it will give you a chance to save up the money (and emotional energy) for Christmas.