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.

Filed Under Budget Travel, California, California, Desert Travel, Driving Trips, Family Travel, Gold Country, Northern California, State Parks


5 Responses to “The Demise of the Picture Postcard?”

  1. Mike on September 11th, 2012 9:48 am

    I agree with you. Barely can we see people use postcard nowadays. It is just sad that the though diminishes as the technology and internet boosts its capability. Me? I still teach my kids how to use this meaningful tool to share photo with message. It is something thoughtful and personal.

  2. Darya Mead on September 11th, 2012 12:32 pm

    Mike, I agree– in fact I love collecting old postcards and think they really give you a taste of a time and place. It worries me that my wrist tires from writing a mere postcard, so it seems like the smallest of rituals to keep alive and pass on to my kids :)

  3. Michael on September 14th, 2012 6:09 am

    So, let’s try our best to teach kids not to forget using postcards. Though I haven’t got kids, I’ll surely pass this tradition on to them.

  4. Lilliane | wanderlass on October 7th, 2012 12:30 pm

    Postcards are still very much part of my travels. During my just concluded 14mo trip around the world, I tried sending 1 per city every chance i get. The result is amazing. I’m back home and I have all these post cards there are like a time capsule that captures a certain point in time. Check the link out. Cheers.

  5. Darya Mead on December 20th, 2012 7:26 pm

    Awesome idea Liliane–I like the tactile nature of postcards too– the stamps you collect–the postmarks –all of it!

Leave a Reply