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. Melie says:

    I would like to think it has to do with society moving beyond appearances to the point of the exercise. The purpose of personal messages should be to communicate caring and a desire to remain in touch with the recipient. Too often, the holiday cards I receive via snail mail appear to be more about the cost of the card and how much time was spent in putting it together. Though any mailing is appreciated, I prefer an email with non-posed photos and real information about the happenings in friends’ lives over staged, glitzy productions.

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  2. Amy says:

    It’s not just the time, effort and inconvenience involved in sending cards (although those are all good reasons to abandon them). There’s also an environmental impact, from the destruction of trees to create the cards to the printing and delivery processes that get them into the consumer’s hands, and right on down to the delivery to the recipients’ homes. All of that adds up–and the end result isn’t even necessarily a timely greeting. (How often do birthday cards sent via snail mail actually arrive on someone’s birthday?) I stopped sending greeting cards several years ago, and I don’t regret it or feel guilty. On the contrary, I feel I’m doing my small part for the environment while making things easier on myself. A true win-win!

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  3. Middle American says:

    The fact that an economist has to ask whether or not to send an actual card at the expense of a few moments, some saliva, and a stamp under 4 bits explains the Great Recession.

    Yes, it reeks El Cheapo.

    Next, we can address sending your wife flowers on Valentine’s Day and buying lemonade from the neighbor’s kid.

    As Nike said, Just Do It.

    Or, don’t.

    And sleep outside for awhile.

    Do you need an answer on whether to pay 27 year old traders a million dollar bonus or to raise taxes on the top 1% to Reagan levels?

    If you do, you’re either in Washington, New York, or an academic ivory tower.

    Save El Cheapo emails for NON occasions, and you’re much more likely to get them back, as well as actual responses, cards, and, yes, even gifts, on the important occasions.

    And think of all the money you’ll save not having to hire pallbearers.

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  4. dude says:

    Does anyone still use regular mail for anything? I bought a book of stamps a few years ago(can’t even remember why), and 99% of them are still sitting in my desk drawer. They’ve probably raised the rates since then anyway.

    I know the only mail i get is junk – even my bills are via email now. I may as well just take the bottom off my mailbox & deposit a recycling receptacle under it.

    Generally holiday greetings are disseminted via email & text message. Sending people greetings printed on & encased in deceased trees just seems wasteful.

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  5. nonsense says:

    I think that the convenience of the internet has and is slowly phasing out the need for anything relating to snail mail. I, on the other hand, prefer snal mail items when it comes to friends or family. I believe it is more personal and requires more effort (for me at least) than just typing away at the computer. For occasions like birthdays or holidays, I prefer to write out the card and write out an individualised message-not a generic message. In the end, for me, writing out a card takes longer than me just typing away an email or e-card. And I believe the people I send it to appreciate the effort. I know that between my father and myself, we would just send cards to each other as a secondary form of communication after the telephone. We’d send each other Halloween cards, Easter cards, etc., just for kicks but I have kept every single one.

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  6. Ian Kemmish says:

    Buying and signing a card isn’t time intensive. Making your own card and adding some nice calligraphy is time intensive.

    I’ll wager that the number of hand-made cards being sent isn’t declining.

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  7. Alex says:

    If you don’t view your time as too valuable to use on a card, why didn’t you continue sending cards? Either the social norm is breaking down and you’ve caved to its convention, or you actually do view your time as too valuable to use on sending cards.

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  8. Eileen M. Wyatt says:

    If one has a large number of online friends spread across the globe, one positively has some form of electronic contact info but doesn’t necessarily have a street address.

    364 days of the year, one doesn’t *need* a street address for these people. Compiling and maintaining street addresses is labor-intensive and ordinarily has no value to the relationship, which bops along happily in purely online form.

    E-cards make more sense.

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