Mary Beard recently had a piece on her blog complaining about the rise of the e-christmas card.
And it’s undoubtedly true that as the postal service declines more and more people are turning to sending seasonal greetings by email. I don’t have a problem with this – an annual newsy email from friends and families overseas is always welcome. What’s less welcome is the email of someone’s dog in a santa hat which has been sent out as part of a distribution list.
Somehow it just doesn’t have the sense of anticipation you get by opening an envelope. Partly of course this is pure nostalgia for a simpler world when a card from overseas or the other side of the country was something special.
And the same can be said for the commercial season’s greetings emails from people you’ve done business with. Once it used to be a christmas card sent out as bulk mail, but at least you could put them on your office wall for a bit of seasonal colour.
No one is going to do that with an email – basically they go straight to delete.
So, we need to re think this Christmas card thing. It started on the back of the penny post when, witha universal postal service, people could send cards as greetings – and to be cynical it did involve some slick marketing by the greeting cards people. Before then the post had been for letters, and handwriting a lot of greeting letters at christmas was a chore. Christmas cards allowed you to take a prepackaged item, add some personalised words of greeting and send it to someone, and you could include a letter or a note if you felt like it.
Over the years it turned into a mass exercise sending cards to everyone you knew – christmas card lists turned out to be like facebook friends lists – some you know, some you don’t, and who the hell is she ?
And as sending cards became more expensive the habit moved online and became this bulk anonymized exercise we see today.
Let’s reclaim the card – something special sent to those few people who are someway special in your life. And yes, if that mean’s using the postal service, let’s use it like it was 1891.
For the rest let’s use the technology – there’s always facebook and twitter – but let’s not pretend it’s really personal …