I’ve always been ambivalent about the holiday photo card – the snapshots of “here we are casually walking down a country road” or the ones on a beach at sunset where every family member just happens to be wearing white.

They are the Instagram equivalent of the holiday letter – a rosy-cheeked, Photoshopped version of a family’s year. A crying kid on Santa’s lap is an allowable transgression, with tears still in service of maximizing adorableness.

Elline Lipkin is a research scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women and teaches creative writing for Los Angeles Writing Classes.