Have Yourself a Merry Little Facebook

Between the dining room and living room in my grandparents’ old house there was a white arch. Every holiday season, that arch would be covered from top to bottom on both sides with holiday cards. Decked out in vivid greens, reds and whites, with religious symbolism or irreverent reindeer, cards would travel from as far away as Arizona and as close as down the street to end up taped to my grandmother’s arch. Growing up, seeing all those cards from people I knew, or possibly would never meet, was as comforting as the baked ham and cheesy potatoes we’d eat for Christmas dinner. Those cards were a tangible, physical reminder of the many people my family could call friends and loved ones.

As I moved around in my twenties and early thirties, I lost track of that feeling. I had forgotten how nice it is to receive a simple reminder in the mail. Now, we send eCards for birthdays, and the Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn and “OH MY LORD I can’t ever get away from you people” nature of Social Media, the perception of the value from sending a piece of mail has been diminished. Instead of cards taped to an arch, we have fleeting “happy birthday” posts on a Facebook wall, or an online photo album of pictures we won’t ever remember to check. The reality is, while we are constantly warned that what you post to social media sites will be out there forever, well wishing messages on Social Media sites are fleeting.

Which is why I was surprised that an unlikely source, the Social Media blogging platform Tumblr, was what reminded me about the value of simply getting something in the mail. This time last year, I was gearing up for a trip to England with my wife for a wedding. As part of that, I dropped a quick note to some of my Twitter/Tumblr internet connections asking if they’d like a postcard. I was shocked at the overwhelmingly positive response. So I collected the addresses and carried with them me across the pond.

I spent a cold and snowy day in Cambridge reliving the semester I spent there in college and in the early afternoon, nipped into a warm pub next to a roaring fire to write my postcards over a pint of beer. Shortly after my messy scrawl filled the back of pictures of Cambridge, I dropped the cards off at a post office and promptly forgot about them.

Much to my surprise, shortly after returning from my trip, several of my internet friends had posted pictures of the postcards I sent them. Many had been stuck on the fridge with a magnet or taped to a mirror. It was a simple reminder that someone had made more of an effort to make a human connection with them than just some translated ones and zeros on a monitor. And there’s a lot of value in that.

I recently joked that if every man, woman and child sent something like eighty additional postcards a year that we’d have the USPS budget shortfall taken care of pretty quickly. While that’s never going to happen, I’m going to try and do my part. Not because of any intellectual reason, but rather because postal mail means something more to people. My wife and I have moved well past fifty on our holiday card list and hopefully some of those cards will end up taped to a white arch as a simple reminder that my wife and I care.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go fight with the mail merge function in Word to get my address labels printed.

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