There’s nothing quite like the feeling of opening the mailbox to discover a letter from a loved one or a postcard with some gorgeous scenic view and a “Wish you were here” handwritten on the back.
Now this simple pleasure is enjoyed less often and by fewer people than ever, thanks in great part to all things digital.
It is clear to see just how obsolete things like postcards have become simply by looking at the Post Card Distributors Association of North America, a trade association in the 1970s. It became the Post Card & Souvenir Distributors Association in 2003 and has since evolved simply into Souvenir Wholesale Distributors.
By the 1990s, postcard sales were down to 27.5 percent. Today they are at around only 10 percent.
But why should we care about things like sending a postcard or a letter?
There’s no doubt that advances in digital technology — communication in particular — are a good thing. But with all of these amazing gains, there is also something that we’ve lost: that feeling you get when you see the familiar handwriting of someone you know, who took the time to sit down and write you a letter or a postcard after thinking of you while traveling.
It’s a kind of satisfaction that you just can’t get when you read an e-mail accessed on your phone in the middle of lecture. It’s a more intimate and personal attempt at communication with another human being. And even when we feel like all of our advances have brought people closer together, it might just be that the way we communicate now in abbreviate words and mass emails, in a way leaves us somewhat less connected.
In this day and age, many people carry around a compact piece of technology that can fit into the back of their pockets with which they can call their neighbor down the street or e-mail their best friend studying abroad — while listening to their favorite song.
These creative advances in technology, which fascinate most of us and still baffle some, have done wonders for communication.
Barriers have been broken down and digital technology has now made it quick and easy to get hold of just about anyone at any time in any place on earth.
We’ve increased and enhanced communication, but in doing this, have we also diminished the significance of what it used to mean to get in touch with someone?
It’s hard to believe that at one time, sending a letter would take the efforts of multiple riders on horseback traveling for days just to get to the recipient located somewhere across the country. But times have changed, and new technology is constantly being put out in the world for our convenience.
But perhaps, every once in a while, it might be worth the while to spend the few extra minutes writing a letter or filling out a postcard just to appreciate the old art.
There really is nothing quite like receiving a personal letter — and the satisfaction of knowing that it hasn’t been BCC’d to anyone else.