December 1, 1999
Santa’s Not Real
When my kids ask me if Santa Claus is real, I’m afraid
I’ll be able to say, "No," and without reservation. It seems the roly-poly, red
velvet-clad, bearded icon of my youth has left physical comforts of the North Pole for
good to take up residence in the circuitry that is the web.
Santa’s arrival on the Internet was heralded in a late October press release from
Extempo, Redwood City, Calif., a software company that has made possible Kris Kringle’s
transcendence from virtuosity to virtuality. Using intelligent agent technology, Extempo
has created "Chat with Santa," an interactive animated Claus that holiday
shoppers can talk to while visiting their favorite online stores. New research from NFO
Interactive, Greenwich, Conn., says 3 million new shoppers will have made their first
purchase on the Internet this quarter. And, a grand total of 27 million households will
buy online this holiday season.
The "Chat with Santa" lure to these fledgling cybershops, I fear, will
forever turn Santa Claus into CyberSanta for generations of children. This scares me–more
so than the jolly old elf himself the first time I chatted with him live and in person
at the local mall. Call me old fashioned, but it just seems wrong. The spirit of giving is
something warm and comfortable like a welcome lap and jelly-bowl belly or silky white
whiskers and rosy red cheeks.
I know. I know. The spirit of giving is intangible; it lives inside of us, not in some
overgrown cherub. I guess I just like my commercialism to have a human side. It swallows
much more easily for me.
But then again, if we are truly moving away from the brick-and-mortar retail world,
then I suppose even an eSanta is better than no Santa at all.
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