Are social media and the Internet responsible for the demise of the picture postcard? An article in a Scottish newspaper says just one in six Britons send a postcard while on their vacation, according to online and market research company One Poll.
Granted, Americans, in general, partake in way less “holiday time” than our European counterparts, but is it really true that smartphones and instant gratification through technology are wiping out such a colorful and beloved tradition?
On a recent trip to Bodie State Historic Park, my camera battery died. Such a picturesque place, I was kicking myself, but luckily I had gotten a few shots and still had my non-smartphone, phone camera.
We went into the gift shop and postcards were 45 cents. I decided to get a few, I usually have my kids send them to grandparents and perhaps their own friends, part writing exercise, part ritual. This time I wanted to send one to a family whose dog, (named Bodie, after a ’90s trip together to Bodie) had just passed away. We had created a laminated memorial to leave at the cemetery as a tribute. I thought it would be nice to also send them a postcard.
I have sent postcards from all over the world. I know my dad has an entire file folder of them and I’m sure my mom has them scattered around her apartment, hidden on bookshelves and in piles. Pre-World Wide Web, in the era of aerogrammes (remember those?) postcards were a quick and easy way to say, “I’m thinking of you” or “Here I am in the fabulous place,” sharing a bit about your adventures.
It was always a fun task to buy stamps in unusual places, mail them in foreign mail boxes and know that your missives were en-route to folks you care about. It seems like Facebook updates are often boastful, unedited and on occasion, jealousy provoking. Not always, not so much with close buddies, but sometimes peeking into someone’s life (who is at best tangential to yours) seems a bit voyeuristic.
I’m certainly guilty, I love posting pics, but I worry that we are sacrificing a quality experience, kind of like what the slow food movement is to fast food. I certainly like to see who goes where and what they choose to photograph, but I write about travel and really am genuinely interested in any destination. I just worry that postcards will disappear, and with them, not only a terrific art form and a document of places and time, but also a cherished travel ritual.