As Christmas rolls around the corner, the season of gift giving is upon us. Some savvy shoppers, observant friends, and those with the go-getter spirit unafraid of wielding long traffic hours and elbows in store fronts will find Christmas a zestful challenge.
Others will find it a claustrophobia of deja vu, a performance part that repeats yearly and still others will find the experience a happy medium.
Unlike previous years I find myself much more attracted to virtual gifts. My philosophy is that if I must send or receive a gift, it might as well be a gift that won't cozy up to a landfill in the future. Also, stupid gifts (which I can unintentionally give in my last minute panic) in virtual worlds hold a certain pizazz they lack in the real world. For example, a "tripped out escalator" from Detroit is actually rather cool in VR, though the hard copy (glass snow-globe) will not likely capture the joy you were hoping for in person.
After a bit of searching I found a wealth of gift options that are virtual, always playful and sometimes meaningful.
Ning launched its virtual gifts this year, you can give to your friends on twitter with twesents and twitgiftly. Gifts in 3D targeted for iPhone users are now available, as are the old staples of virtual cards and flowers. My favorite gifts are on facebook. Yes, you can launch a rash of gift giving to your farmville neighbors and give disney gifts or plant gifts to your 400 friends until your credit runs out, but for those really really special friends I'm into facebook's (newly expanded) gift area where you can give music, or charity gifts. Hit your causes app, go to gifts and you'll fnd things like a Kiva piggy bank, or a WWF Panda or a cute puppy where the money goes to the Humane Society.
In a culture weighted down with stuff, in some cases virtual exchange makes sense and if you choose charity giving, it can meaningfully contribute to those truly in need.