How to: Write a postcard to a stranger

10 Sep

Don’t believe the hype. About postcards. The travel association ABTA claimed in 2009 that “no amount of gadgets and technology can replace the personal touch of a postcard.” Then they predicted that 130 million postcards would be sent between May and October of that same year. Royal Mail put the figure closer to 100 million. Either way it’s a lot of stamps. ABTA went on to cite Donna Dawson, a psychologist with a passion for postcards. Here’s her Twopenny Blues worth:

“Picture postcards will always beat emails, texts and SNS messages, because they are something that you can hold in your hand and observe close up, utilising both the senses of touch and vision, and thus triggering the pleasure-centres of the brain more quickly. They also create a stronger emotional response than the newer methods of communication, and tie in with a long and sentimental history of traditional seaside holiday postcards.”

Thank you, Donna, for putting a party hat on a paperweight. Both touch and vision? I’d consider this an enlightened perspective if it weren’t for the fact that postcards are flat pieces of cardboard. Or am I wrong? Maybe I should go to a gift shop tomorrow and touch a bunch of postcards, it’ll be a pleasure-center thrill-ride!

Now, please read this selection out loud: “…and tie in with a long and sentimental history of traditional seaside holiday postcards.” You got sleepy, didn’t you? Almost like you’re reciting a GED reading-comprehension quiz. Never forget that when people say, “have a nice trip, be sure and send a postcard,” they don’t mean it. Whoever wrote this greeting from Poland got it right:

Dear blabla, wish you bla here. "Bla bla bla, bla bla bla, bla bla bla. That's what you wanted to hear. Warm greetings!"

If Donna’s proclamation wasn’t enough to make postcards droop into boredom, consider the fact that while postcards stopped to have tea with your grandma, Facebook was clocking status updates at 700 per second. That’s 60,480,000 a day and 423,360,000 a week. Although Facebook updates aren’t always worth the time it takes to read them, neither are their postal ancestors.

Can we get a round of applause for the postcards? Their numbers have thinned, but they’ve been there, done that, done it again, and then probably spent some time stuck to a refrigerator. They’ve survived the rise of numerous foes—the commercialization of the internet, the Steve Wozniak, the Y2K, even the omnipotent Facebook. And they’ve survived these things because they are none of them. They are unique, silent, confusingly difficult to write, and no one will ever post a comment on one.

In celebration of The Postcard, let’s all send one to a stranger. Here’s HOW!

  • Make it interesting!
    • A stranger is someone you’ve never met or been aware of. Strangers also happen to be the majority of human beings on this planet. Give your stranger a reason to identify with you, otherwise he won’t wish he was there.
  • Use your funny gun
    • Don’t worry about scaring off your stranger with humor. Postcard readers are obedient audience–If you got a postcard from a stranger would you only read half of it?
  • Share a secret
  • Provide contact information
    • Give your stranger the opportunity to respond. You won’t be disappointed if they do.

Ian Douglas-Moore's message to a stranger

Written by two German teenagers

Big Daddy Mugglestone says "hello."

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4 Responses to “How to: Write a postcard to a stranger”

  1. karina September 12, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    yesteday i received a postcard that i sent to myself. i forget that i had written it, so it was sort of like getting mail from a stranger. or a stalker, really.

    • jasonbox September 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

      Did you wish you were there?

  2. Shanel Barnes September 6, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    We are a bunch of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
    Your website provided us with helpful info to work on.
    You’ve done a formidable job and our whole group might
    be grateful to you.

    • jasonbox October 1, 2015 at 3:11 am #

      SHANEL, I HATE MYSELF FOR WRITING THIS BLOG ENTRY AND I OFTEN WONDER IF YOU’RE A REAL PERSON AND WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW.

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