By Jo Bryant
LONDON (Reuters) - Christmas is a convivial time of year when people get together for celebrations and conversation. It's all about human contact so it's important that you're discriminating about how you use your digital devices.
It's fine if they're used to facilitate get-togethers and spread seasonal cheer. But Christmas is a real, not a virtual event, so it's important to discard the phones, tablets and computers and enjoy festive celebrations in the real world.
Christmas cards are still an invaluable and personal way of keeping in touch with far-flung friends and relations.
In these straitened times, however, you might want to cut down the number of cards you send, so it's fine to explain to your nearest and dearest that you won't be sending them cards - a personalized seasonal message by text, phone call or email, sent out to individuals, is quite acceptable.
Avoid sending out generic e-cards. They're lazy and impersonal, and many people will find them lacking in Christmas spirit or just baffling.
If you're emailing instead of sending a Christmas card, make sure that you send out unique - and individual - messages to each of your recipients. Group emails, like round robins, are to be avoided.
It's fine to put general seasonal messages on social networking sites, but avoid posting compromising photos.
This is the time of year when we all let our hair down, but not everyone will appreciate the evidence being posted for all to see in cyberspace.
Don't get too carried away with seasonal cyber-cheer. Spamming your friends and followers with endless Christmas wishes and updates will soon get tedious.
Christmas Day is all about socializing with family and friends, and enjoying good food and good conversation. So don't spend the big day glued to your phone, rather than interacting with your family.
Ban all phones from the Christmas table.
Eating together is all about sociability and it's a real insult to the host and/or cook to be transfixed by your texts rather than the turkey and table talk.
Be a good digital host.
Technology is part of our everyday life and Christmas is no exception. If you have friends or family staying in your home, make sure that you have your WiFi password to hand. Offer them access to your network, and hope that everyone adheres to good festive netiquette.
Christmas is the perfect time to make a video call, but choose your timing carefully. Nobody wants to be talking to virtual visitors during lunch or present opening.
Remember the power of the written word.
If you are the lucky recipient of a generous present or lavish hospitality, then hand-writing a proper thank you letter is a much more elegant gesture than texting or emailing, and will be noted and appreciated. It is fine to email or text your thanks for small presents.
(This story has been refiled to fix dateline)
(Jo Bryant is an etiquette advisor and editor at Debrett's, the UK authority on etiquette and modern manners (www.debretts.com). Any opinions expressed are her own. Debrett's "Netiquette" is a definitive guide to digital dilemmas and outlines a code of manners for modern communication.)
(Editing by Paul Casciato)