In Praise of the Postcard

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Postcards had been first printed within the mid-1800s, and over the following century, a whole bunch of billions of them can be despatched world wide. Between June 1907 and June 1908 alone, Americans exchanged 667 million of them. As writer Lydia Pyne argues, the astonishing ubiquity of postcards made them the “world’s first social community.”

Practical and low-cost, postcards had been used for propaganda (organizations would create ones emblazoned with political messages), promoting (resorts, eating places, and plenty of other forms of companies all printed their very own), and naturally journey (vacationers picked them up each to mail out and to take residence as souvenirs). People despatched postcards from unique locations and little-known locales alike, and the playing cards not solely carried photos of vacationer hotspots just like the Egyptian pyramids and Niagara Falls, however small-town excessive faculties and single-stoplight intersections as effectively.

Both the playing cards themselves and the postage they required had been cheap. A one-penny value for postcard stamps was set in 1898 and lasted till the center of the twentieth century. (Today, a postage stamp is 40 cents, nonetheless cheaper than the 58 cents it prices to ship a letter.)

With a picture on the entrance, and room on the again for simply the handle of the recipient and some strains from the sender, postcards conveyed brief and succinct messages — a hi there, a vacation greeting, a promise to jot down extra later. Postcards had been a easy means for individuals to maintain tabs on one another — an aesthetically-pleasing ping as to somebody’s present whereabouts. 

Postcards peaked in reputation round World War I. The rise first of telephones, moveable cameras, and simple movie creating, after which e-mail, smartphones, and social media, steadily diminished their prevalence. Today, they’re tougher to seek out and much more not often exchanged. 

But there’s nonetheless a case to be made for the sending of postcards.

The receipt of any snail mail — the sight of hand-scribed writing sandwiched in what’s in any other case a pile of soul-less junk — is all the time a delight. In a time the place a lot of our communication is ephemeral and summary, one thing private and tangible – one thing that the recipient can contact, that the sender additionally dealt with — creates a connection that the interchange of kilobytes can by no means match.

How charming a wholesale revival of the artwork of letter writing would thus be. But we’ve got all made lodging to the fashionable, hyper-fast communication economic system; few have the eye span to pen a prolonged missive, and plenty of will balk when confronted with filling a whole web page with writing. 

With a postcard, brevity is constructed into the medium. You don’t need to have a variety of time. You don’t need to get artistic. You don’t have to present a blow-by-blow replace in your life. All you need to do is add within the textual equal of a wave of the hand. The gesture of sending the postcard is virtually the whole message itself. 

And what a pleasant message that gesture conveys.

All journey pictures — whether or not postcards despatched by means of the mail or pictures shared on social media — carry a little bit of the show-off-y “Look the place I’m!” pretense about them. People sometimes don’t thoughts this — they often welcome the prospect to see what you’ve been as much as and are comfortable you’ve been having a very good time. But the potential envy/FOMO-inducing impact of journey updates is best balanced with the enjoyable of receiving them after they’re supplied for somebody’s eyes solely, moderately than broadcast willy-nilly to a mass of on-line followers.

In distinction to sharing journey pictures on social media after a visit is finished, which evinces the aforementioned performative high quality alone, sending a postcard reveals you had been pondering warmly of a selected pal or member of the family, and doing so on the journey itself. While away, not solely did your ideas flip to somebody again residence, you then took the time to pick out and buy a postcard, write a notice, purchase a stamp, and drop the cardboard at a submit workplace or mailbox. To the show of non-public fun-having supplied up by the sender is added a heartening, connective, metaphorical and generally literal message to the recipient: “Wish You Were Here.”

Yes, postcards are deserving of reward for the way simple they’re to ship and the way pleasant they’re to obtain. But the easiest factor about them of all is that they embody no area for a return handle. In a time when you may really feel perennial guilt over your queue of unanswered emails and texts, the postcard is a most welcome and refreshing kind of message: one which carries no expectation of response. 

The submit In Praise of the Postcard appeared first on The Art of Manliness.
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