Taking it slowly: why I love to send (paper) postcards

March 11, 2015

in daily life, simplicity

“Slowing down could be the single most effective action to save the world.”

Donella Meadows

During a recent lunch with a good friend who works as a digital strategist, I casually mentioned that I like to send postcards, to which she commented quite baffled “you still send postcards?”. My natural reply was “dozens, probably hundreds, of them each year”.

I’ve been consistently sending postcards during my whole life and that behavior accelerated when I moved out of my native Argentina back in late 2001. I guess that before social media and constant connectivity, sending postcards was a normal thing to do. Despite the fact that I can poke any of my friends in real-time through Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and what not, I find myself sending more postcards now than ever.
Reflecting on this practice I came to the conclusion that the main reason why I send so many postcards is because we are so digitally connected and constantly multitasking that receiving a slow, old-school, message from somewhere around the world has become more significant than ever before.

I actually like to take time to think of whom I’d like to write to, purchase the rectangular cardboard cards and write down on them with one of my favorite fountain pens and even mark them with one of the several rubber stamps I buy throughout my travels (my preferred ones tend to be Japanese).

It’s a way for me to say “I’m thinking about you” and have it randomly show up in your mailbox.

While we might be more digitally connected than ever, we’re still made of flesh and bones and I think there’s some value in receiving a physical object to remind us of our connectedness beyond bits. Writing a postcard is not multitasking-friendly, requiring dedicated time and full attention to manifest your thoughts and the recipient’s full address on paper, walk to the post office to buy a stamp and finally insert the small piece of cardboard into a mailbox that often looks as if it belonged to a long forgotten Universe. An added bonus is that post offices still produce stamps with different and often limited artwork, which adds a bonus to the object being sent off. The fact that it might take days, weeks or months for your object to reach its destination – if it ever does so – proves the whole ritual with a wishful patina.

Sending physical postcards is a way to reconnect with friends and family. For example, in Japan the practice of nengajō (年賀状), sending New Year’s postcards, is still quite popular and if the postcards are presented in time to the post office, they will be delivered during the first day of the year all at once.
So friend, if you’re traveling somewhere interesting or maybe you’re just at home but we haven’t connected in a while, then why don’t you send me a postcard and I’ll certainly reciprocate sooner than later! (For practical reasons I rather not write down my home address here but reach out in private if you need it).

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