Postcards in a Postmodern World

With postcards we can have brief but meaningful interactions with our friends from far away

In an age where instant gratification is commonplace, it’s little wonder that even human interactions have been sacrificed for convenience. Long distance (and not-so-long-distance) communication is largely reduced to text messages and comments on social media. Worse yet, these online exchanges are rapid fire, eclipsing even the speed of human thought. Email, once reviled as the vulgar usurper of traditional letter-writing, has now become a “formal” means of correspondence, reserved for business purposes or lengthy missives that would be too long for a text.

It’s for this reason that many have turned to  letter writing for communicating with friends and loved ones. A letter is, after all, more personal and more humane than an electronic message of identical contents. A correspondent’s handwriting, for instance, tells you a great deal about his or her feelings at the precise moment when the pen travels across the paper. Digital words can be easily replicated across any number of devices. Moreover, having “a piece” of the other person is beyond priceless: their very thoughts have been transmitted onto tangible paper by tangible ink, which can be treasured and read a thousand times.

Is letter writing the answer?

Despite the frequency with which many of us have returned to letter writing, most people in this postmodern world still cannot bring themselves to return to this ancient art. Sadly, many cannot afford the time to sit down and write. Or, if time for such a leisurely activity is found, the recipient of the letter is often hard-pressed to respond, thereby limiting any chance of a mutual correspondence.

My best friend and I were faced with this problem when we went to different colleges in different states. Once prolific and long-seasoned letter-writers, we quickly found that amidst the frantic bustle of classes, coursework, and separate social lives, we no longer had the time to write long, thoughtful letters to each other. Often, we didn’t even have the time to text.

It wasn’t until our respective junior years that we hit upon a solution: postcards. We had sent postcards before, but they were only as frequent as our visits to vacation spots or famous cities. Our true postcard correspondence was born when we realized that they could be sent at all times and for all occasions. They were our via media, our middle way between the necessity of  swift ease and aspiration for thoughtful human exchange. Every chance we got, we either purchased or made postcards and sent them to one another. It didn’t even matter if our cards responded to one another. What mattered was that they were being sent. In truth, my best friend and I found that postcards most easily implement letter writing into daily life. It takes five minutes to write one, and the writing space forces more creativity than a 140 character limit.

Send a note from home

You don’t have to go to Niagra Falls or Cancun to find postcards. You might be surprised at how pleasant it is to receive a postcard from a friend’s local haunts rather than some exotic locale. Or, if you like being creative, it’s not hard to find to find and spice up a pretty or interesting piece of 5”x7” paper to send. My friend even sent an illustration from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huck Finn!

Postcards may not be replacements for letter-writing, but they do serve to give a bit of humaneness and dignity to the quick message. If full-length letters are heartfelt tete-a-tete’s, then postcards are the amiable “Hello!” which one gives a friend passing in the street. Both are needed in our lives, and if we cannot always spare the time for the former, we ought at least take advantage of the latter to brighten and better another’s day. While I believe that everyone can and should write letters, I think that sometimes, when the craziness of school, work, or postmodern life prevents such leisure, postcards are a perfect via media.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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