Are Greeting Cards a Thing of the Past?

DESCRIPTIONPhoto: Alden Jewell

This year, we emailed an electronic letter reporting on our family events and offering best wishes to all the friends and relations to whom in the past we had snail-mailed Jewish New Year greeting cards. We felt guilty about switching away from the time-intensive activity of buying, signing and addressing snail-mail cards, and worried that the email would signal others that we viewed our time as too valuable to spend on a card. We don’t.

We’ve noticed that we are receiving fewer snail-mail greeting cards, both now and at the Christmas/New Year season too, so our behavior is fairly typical. Is the social norm of sending greeting cards breaking down? Or is it just substitution toward the less time-intensive form of greeting? Since I don’t think we’re atypical, I have to ask: Why the trend?

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  1. lana says:

    why spend money on cards and postage when you can select a cool, often personalizable, animated card and send it over the internet with little to no expense and much less time?
    I like snail mail but most christmas cards are obviously purchased and sent in bulk. They’re not picked to be special to us and don’t even have our name anywhere but the envelope, i’d just as soon have something i can watch online and let my kid watch and be entertained for a few minutes. But i’m young and think a facebooked thank-you note is perfectly acceptable too. I don’t know what dear abby would say about the whole thing.

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  2. Greg Hart says:

    We switched a couple of years ago, partly because we procrastinated and partly because we hated the work of paper cards which just got thrown away. Last year, we did an e-card with a video showing our year and emailed and posted on Facebook. One advantage I didn’t think of was all of the comments that people would post on the video are now a permanent record for me (and not just thrown away). Someday I will like to look back on the card and comments. It is not only cheaper and easier, but more lasting. I will never send a real card again.

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  3. Stephen K says:

    The demise of all forms of hand-written communication is a depressing trend.

    I don’t think an email can ever be a treasured possession in the same way a hand-written letter can,

    Get writing people!

    For greeting cards it can get different though since they’re often impersonal and sent out of some weird sense of duty.

    It’s not really as big an issue. I guess it depends on who the recipient is and whether or not it’s sent with genuine affection rather than a wish to ‘keep up appearnances’.

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  4. kevin says:

    How do you infer that your behavior is typical, just from the data on the number of cards you have received?

    We have seen ours balloon in the last few years. Probably because we have school age children, and the number of relationships, even casual, that we have has gone up.

    But, my data is anecdotal as well.

    Personally, I think sending greeting cards is silly at this point, and don’t get me started with the “here is a picture of our perfect family in the same white shirt and jeans at the beach with a 10 paragraph report on how awesome we are” cards I receive.

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  5. MariolaCMS says:

    Personally, i think that the social norm of sending greeting cards is breaking down. I don’t mean that people are just going to stop sending greetings cards. What I mean is that just like you, people are looking for other methods, and I completely agree. Sending greetings electronically, via email, or any other way through the computer is a lot more benefitial to you. Yes, it takes the “warmth” of the christamas greeting card were everyone signs it, but sending it via email has several benefits. Time is very valuable, and you spend less time sending an email that going out, shopping for cards, making everyone sign it, and shipping it off. You also say money, and it is way easier. These things are making many people leave behind the habit of making their greetings cards.

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  6. Robert Sandor says:

    I suppose that I can only guess as a 23 year old.

    (1) With the internet and constant communication and information sharing through Facebook, e-mail, and other social web-based content, there is no need for the annual update Christmas card describing what has happened, I have already seen what has happened on Facebook.

    (2) I have never really used snail-mail for anything but bills (and I do those mostly on-line), so this seems… inefficient.

    (3) I do not see snail mail as “better” in any way, only slower. I do not care if someone took the time to write out what they wanted to say. Plus, I can write back and forth on e-mail several times in the time that it would take me to get the snail mail in the first place.

    Overall, I would say that an inefficient traditional methods tend to die off as people move towards efficiency, even at the expense of what the remember is socially considered special.

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  7. Joe says:

    We have not seen a diminishment of snail-mail Christmas cards. We view the snail-mail cards not as a timesuck but another way to get into the Christmas spirit in many ways:

    1) As senders, we’ve made the card signing and addressing a ritual that requires booze, cookies, and a fireplace.

    2) As receivers, we display the cards prominently as part of holiday decor.

    What we’ve found is that almost everyone in our immediate family have ritualized this in pretty much the same way. But, perhaps, my family is not typical. We may get better metrics on the e-mail phenomenon on how much snail-mail card volume is handled by the post office every year.

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  8. nv says:

    Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) have put many people in much more regular contact with old friends, schoolmates, and relatives scattered all over the globe.

    Rather than feeling the need to greet and update these acquaintances in a single annual mass-mailing, we check in with one another far more frequently online–whether we write a quick note to offer words of encouragement of affection, or browse the photos they post of their kids or their most recent vacation.

    So now, greeting cards feel not so much like a waste of time and effort, but redundant.

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