Wish you were here: The death of the humble postcard

In such a modern, digitalised world, anyone would be forgiven for thinking sending a postcard has become as much a dying art form as sending a handwritten letter to your pen pal or reading an actua

In such a modern, digitalised world, anyone would be forgiven for thinking sending a postcard has become as much a dying art form as sending a handwritten letter to your pen pal or reading an actual book. But is this 140 year old tradition really the latest victim of the internet and technology?

Admit it: we all feel a flicker of excitement when a colourful postcard lands on our doorstep among all those bills and junk mail. Whether it is a jealousy-inducing ‘wish you were here’ card with sun-kissed beaches and palm trees, a bikini-clad babe or stunning cityscape, it is great to receive something personal. Although, the recent surge in the popularity of smartphones has been be blamed for a decline in postcard traffic.

Recently, a survey concluded 45 percent of the people asked had never sent a postcard and only 16 percent would on their travels. There has been a constant increase in internet usage while abroad with half of travellers actively updating their social media profiles while on the road. Moreover, 71 percent of those surveyed sent texts to family and friends as a means of staying in touch. With the internet now making it possible to connect with home almost instantly, it is easy to see how postcards may fall by the wayside.

However, the postcard hasn’t quite hit the downward spiral to extinction just yet. Over half of us still prefer to send postcard because it’s “an important part of British culture,” and the Association of British Travel Agents have estimated that us Brits will send 130 million postcards this summer. Evidently, there are still some traditionalists out there who love to share their travel experiences with pen and paper rather than a laptop. It is great to think someone has taken the time to pick out a card and write a message jut for you, if only to boast about how good the weather is.

I am one such person. I always send postcards while on my travels, and much to my friends annoyance, always pester them for one when they go away. I love receiving them so much, I signed up to a recent phenomenon: postcrossing.

Set up in 2005 by Paolo Magalhães, postcrossing allows members from all over the world to connect by sending and receiving postcards. So far, 15,134,148 postcards have been sent between people from almost every country in the world, with over 460,000 in transit right now. Clearly, postcards still matter to the 360,000 members! I have continued to write to one member in Germany after we discovered her father used to live just a few miles from me. Crazy! It is surprising how such a small card and a stamp can bring people together.

Yet, the traditional oblong card is not the only material used as a postcard. Almost 3,000 ‘coconut postcards’ are sent every year from Hawaii, costing the average traveller $10 a pop. Other items which have been sent include pumpkins, flip flops and the odd bit of stray driftwood. A much more inventive way of letting the folks know you’re alive than dropping a quick email!

Whether it’s a picture of the local scenery or as bizarre an object as one can get away with sending, postcards in whatever form are still hanging on in there. Emails, texts and social media may come up trumps by making it easier and quicker to communicate with those left behind, but the careful and personal art of sending postcards has by no means been defeated. Let’s hope this trend continues because let’s be honest, they never fail to put a smile on someone’s face.

What do you think? Are postcards here to stay? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.