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. Maria says:

    I’ve watched with sadness as the number of Christmas cards I receive goes down every year. (I’m in my late 30s.) The obvious reason is that most people feel they are too busy to send cards — but I stress the word “feel,” because busy people who appreciate handwritten notes still find time to send them. I love beautiful cards and enjoy the ritual of writing them, but my own pleasure has been diminished by the paltry response in recent years, even from friends with whom I still communicate happily in other ways.

    A permanent shift in attitudes is revealed in some of the comments above: greeting cards are “inefficient” compared to e-mail and Facebook. But cards were never meant to be efficient. They were meant as little works of art, designed to express the taste of the sender and brighten the day of the receiver. It’s not efficient to decorate our homes, either — much easier to leave all the walls white — but you can’t enjoy life by reducing it to a series of efficiencies.

    Those who do send cards often send those horrible photo strips with their names pre-printed on them, so they don’t even have to pick up a pen to sign the thing. This is yet another misunderstanding of the holiday card as a self-centered news update rather than an other-centered packet of warm thoughts.

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  2. Maureen says:

    As long as I’m alive there will be one customer left for good old fashioned Christmas cards.

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  3. Caro says:

    Wow, what a bunch of super serious overthinkers we have here!
    Greeting cards – via “snail mail” – are lovely to send and lovely to receive. Who doesn’t like coming home to mail that isn’t advertising, bills or catalogues? A greeting card – for any occasion or none at all – simply says “I thought of you” and takes what, a moment’s effort and a stamp?
    It’s also something tangible to hold and return to…who hasn’t kept a dear grandmother’s Birthday card for years on end, or a lover’s Valentine?
    Internet email cards are just another impersonal step away from “the classics.” So sad.

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  4. Lisa says:

    I, too, have noticed a decline in the number of snail-mail cards received, but I, for one, will persist in sending them out each holiday.

    If the point is to spread ‘efficient’ holiday messages, then an emailed message is fine, but if the point is to send a personal, heart-felt greeting to loved ones, email cannot hold a candle to a snail-mail card. Hand-made cards painstakingly drawn by children to their aunts, uncles, and cousins will never be outranked by an electronic “Happy Birthday, Dude” squealed from computer speakers.

    For me, the whole experience of sending snail-mail cards– the inefficiency of the whole process–is part and parcel of the ‘why’ of doing it in the first place. The time you take to either make, or select a card, add a message, address the envelope, and finally, send it off in the mail is part of the love you put into the message.

    No matter how busy the season, or how crammed the schedule, the person who sent you that snail mail card took the time to think of you. And that’s the real gift.

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  5. Roland says:

    I see the value in sending a real greeting card to friends, family, business associates and customers and that’s why I invested in software that allows me to send custom cards from my computer for about $1.00 each (postage included). I save time and money and everyone gets a greeting card with a non-stock image and a personalized message (in my handwriting) that is less likely to be thrown away. There are several companies that provide this service, some better than others. I send at least one card everyday and the relationships I’ve built have made it extremely worthwhile.

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  6. Adam says:

    Maybe it’s an age thing (I’m 23) but I don’t see the point in cards. My mother likes them so she is the only person I buy them for but none of my friends have ever sent cards to each other.

    Like other’s have said, with an email/Facebook message at least I can respond and we can actually talk. Plus you inevitably phone the person you sent the card to just so you can say exactly what was on the card, but to me a phone call is far more personal and interesting. ?5 also seems a lot to spend on a card and stamps just for it to be quickly read and then thrown in the a draw / the bin. I’d rather the other person kept the money (or gave it to me)

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  7. Marc LeVine says:

    I am a big proponent of Social Media and E-mail. We should use these great tools to simplify our lives whenever we can. I agree. However, some traditions do not need makeovers. Greeting cards are hokey – but, they are very traditional and sentimental – especially during the holidays and on those special ocasions like Birthdays, Anniversaries and in times of sympathy.

    I say we should NOT mess with this tradition.

    Marc Levine
    Director of Social Media
    RiaEnjoile, Inc.

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  8. Diego.CMS says:

    Greeting cards are still been used, but as the article establishes the amount of greeting card sent not each year (but every day) is decreasing. But why? It’s simple, the opportunity cost for a person to buy a greeting card is much higher than the opportunity cost of just filling a template of an online “greeting card” in a certain website. What does this means? It is more complex to someone to get of his house, drive into a grocery store, buy a greeting card and sign it, rather than (what people are doing now) getting online, search for website and sign it. You can still find greeting cards in grocery stores, but the output of this is getting each day lower. Are Greeting Cards a Thing of the Past? No, I don’t think so, it’s just that people are adapting into the facilities that technology is offering. Greeting cards have their audience (costumers) because if they hadn’t they wouldn’t be in a grocery store for being bought.

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