Until earlier this week, I thought Elf on the Shelf was a timeless Christmas tradition that had always been around. In case you have been living under a rock, Elf on a Shelf is as the name implies – A toy elf that you put in plain sight, but you move it to a different location every day, giving the appearance that the elf is alive. You tell little Jimmy or Jess that the elf is Santa’s helper and comes to life because he named and loved it. Elf is here to make sure Jimmy stays well behaved around the holidays, or else the elf will tell Santa. Thus, no presents for Jimmy on Christmas morning. Looks like he made the naughty list. Bummer!

How wrong I was about Elf on the Shelf being a timeless Christmas tradition.

I came into work this past Wednesday and a few of my coworkers were talking about how they were all partaking in the “Elf on a Shelf” story with their children and each were offering their experiences with it so far. Not having any children myself, I was interested to see if this actually worked.

My coworkers were offering stories about how Elf was working wonders for them. All they have to do is mention the elf and immediately, the kids would discontinue any bad behavior so they wouldn’t lose any of Santa’s favor this holiday season. At first, I didn’t really think much of it, but it kept coming up throughout the day in the form of these cute little stories. Every time I heard another story, I noticed it was creating a sense of disturbance for me and by the end of the day, the cute Christmas tradition had turned fully creepy. So naturally, I did some research into Elf on a Shelf and I was able to come up with two theories as to why it was so unsettling for me.

BE WARNED: If you’re someone who loves Christmas, Elf on a Shelf and/or all things therein, please read at your own risk! What I found can potentially ruin this “tradition.”

Theory #1: It’s reinforcing creative ways to get away with bad behavior more-so than good behavior and the good behavior it does reinforce is for all the wrong reasons. If kids only have a reason to behave when the elf is present, I would imagine that the other 9-10 months of the year you’ll have a more rambunctious child. Possibly more prone to acting out in the absence of Santa’s helper and would risk taking a cookie from the jar as long as Elf wasn’t stationed in the kitchen that day. The other side of this being that you’ve set up a rewards system that really only pays out when you’re being monitored. If you’re good, you get presents. This is enforcing good behavior for the wrong reasons. We should be teaching our offspring to make good decisions based on ethics and responsibility, rather than for some form of payment. If you take away the reward, it stands to reason that the behavior will follow. Not to mention as kids get older, their tastes evolve. If the gifts aren’t up to par, you’re in for a meltdown from a child that feels like they worked hard on being good and got shafted when it was time for the payout. These are the same ideologies that have lead to the rapid moral decline in the human race over the last 30 years, in my opinion.

Theory #2: Elf is normalizing constant monitoring to our future generations. I almost felt like I was donning a tin foil hat with this one, but the more I looked into it, the more plausible it became. First, I’d like to mention that this Christmas “tradition” was invented in 2005. Wait, 2005?!? That’s fairly … recent for a tradition. That’d be the same as saying that “All I want for Christmas is you” by Mariah Carey is considered a classic Christmas song on par with the likes of “Jingle Bells.” Almost, but not quite. Effectively what we’ve got here is something that watches you 24/7 and rewards or punishes you based on the decisions you make in the privacy of your own home. If you’ll remember June of 2013 for just a second, you might remember Edward Snowden disclosing publicly how the NSA were spying on the US public. The story was met with massive outrage at the time. But here we are four years later and for the most part, the public just sort of quietly accepts that they probably still monitor us, but we simply ignore it and hope it’s not true. Now, it seems like you can’t even drive down the street without seeing tons of cameras all over the place. Intersections, parking lots, street corners, etc. What if Elf is just a long set in place insurance policy of sorts, just meant to normalize being monitored in your own home? Alright taking the tin hat back off now.

Whether it’s a means of behavioral control, a government conspiracy or just a silly child’s story is all a matter of interpretation at this point; but I’m sure we can all agree that it’s super creepy. I’m only here to give a different perspective on an otherwise harmless toy; but this is why it’s so important to encourage free thought and consider scenarios that are outside of the box. Never trust your media for what it’s showing you at face value and be brave enough to piece things together in ways they wouldn’t normally fit, like Edward Snowden did. With everything happening in the world in our age, it’s so easy to be blinded by the filth set in front of our eyes to distract us from the deeper aspects of our existence. So easy to forget that it’s our age. Our time. We only get so much of it, so we have to make the absolute best of it that we can –because what if?….

I’m Johnny. Just watching out for ya.

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