Deltiology 101: Is Social Media Killing the Postcard

I recently read an article from Australia pointing out that social media is killing the postcard.  It’s a sad concept to think that people are replacing handwritten notes with short 140-word virtual blip, or maybe a broadcasted instant photo taken from a smart phone.

There are 3 reasons to send & save postcards:

  • to share happiness
  • to inspire to dream
  • to document

I started collecting postcards as a way to connect with my only living grandparent who lived on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in an era where long-distance calls were expensive and the price of airline tickets was insane.  I saved every card he sent me (they had cute illustrations on them like Hummels) and my parents (view cards from where he lived and travelled).  My grandfather died in Germany when I was 19.  I only got to see him 3 times in my life.  But I did know him, and I felt like he knew me.  We wrote a lot on those postcards.  I still have them all.

Fast forward to 2013.  I recently met my 90-year old Great Uncle. I make a point of sending him  postcards, so he has something to hold in his hands and show to friends.  He is tech savvy and could easily be on Facebook.  But unless he gathered his cronies around his computer, how would he share stories about me?

My daughter is a story teller and a historian.  She loves hearing stories about the “old days” and is constantly poring over photo albums.  Every now and then I let her flip through my old postcard albums.  She asks questions about where or what is that, who wrote that, “Ew”, “Ah”, and the occasional “Oh”.  On our recent trip to Paris & Rome she even picked out sculptures that she had seen on postcards.

I am a nomad.  I love to travel and explore.  I grew up studying National Geographic and dreaming about being an explorer in the jungle.  I also grew up piecing together the world through postcards.  Yes, I could’ve seen travel pictures from friends on Facebook.  But let’s face it, Facebook travel albums are like the vacation slide shows from the 1970’s.  They are blips (sometimes too many blips), that are easily forgotten because they go away as quickly as they came.  And they have no personal statement attached.  A postcard can be viewed for centuries and has the bonus note on the back to personalize it – even if it was not written to you, it was still written by someone.

The best postcards that I am currently receiving?  Postcards written by kids – my daughter, my nephew & niece, and my daughter’s friends.  It’s fun watching their handwriting change and their ideas mature.  I think one day I will put them all together in a book and return them to the sender.  It will be a nice mini-autobiography.

Facebook and Twitter may be killing the postcard and the Christmas card – but it is also killing personal histories and REAL social connections.  Make your mark in history, and send out handwritten notes!

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One comment

  1. walkerpod says:

    My current project actually uses social media as a way to get strangers to send postcards to my wife for her birthday! I saw your Alaska cards, and would love to get some sent to Aus. I might ask some of the people who are sending me cards to head over to your site. Would you mind if I linked to your blog?

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