Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End of an era?

Rhian and I made a major decision today: the annual holiday card we send out tomorrow will be our last.  Not our last holiday greeting, but our last physical card, that we actually mail to people.  It was designed by our son Owen and me (he did the hilarious photoshop of himself and his brother looking sullen with Santa Claus), and was a huge pain in the ass to have printed.  It was also expensive and wasteful (minimum order: 250) and necessitated a ten-minute wait in line at the post office for stamps, because the USPS took away the stamp vending machine.

The fact is, many of our closest friends have little or no physical presence in our lives.  We love them via the phone, or by email, or (I admit it) on facebook.  For many of these people--at least half of the address book on my phone--we have no street address.  These aren't second-tier friends, not necessarily anyway--they are internet correspondents.  This is its own particular, and honored, category.

And so next year, we're doing a web page and will email you a link.  It won't just be a photo--we'll fancy it up, maybe stick a song on there, or a Flash animation (if Flash is still alive in late 2011, and Owen still knows how to code it), or bit of comic writing, or what have you.  The fact is, the virtual world is more versatile and potentially entertaining for this sort of thing.  Our crowning achievement in the paper arena was probably the board game we designed and sent out years ago--that was a corker.  But last year's card (admittedly, it was lame: a broken-image gif on the front and a "404: card not found" error on the back), nobody even bothered to tell us they received.  It was just another piece of junk mail.

The thing is, a holiday card is something you're only supposed to look at for about a minute.  Then you throw it away.  This is practically the definition of internet content.  It isn't that a fine old tradition is dead: it's that the perfect technology for holiday greetings has finally arrived.  We're gonna do it, but we're gonna do it for free.  To our beloved physical-world friends, we thank you for your cards and letters (espcially Sung's and Dawn's, with all the adorable dog pix, and Bev, with the crazy-ass family photo and two-page newsy snark manifesto).   But we're going virtual in 2011.  And the USPS, sad to say, can suck it.


rmellis said...

This makes me sad, though. I feel great allegiance to the post office. Though I've been mad at them ever since they started branding all the POs to look the same: all with US POST OFFICE sign out front, instead of the individual town names. So many nice old POs got uglified in the last decade, too.

Sung said...

You know what Dawn does with old cards? She saves the front portion and tapes them on the presents the following year, making a nice decoration of sorts for the gifts. But here's the thing -- since so many people are now sending photo cards (we're guilty of it as well this year), this practice, too, is fast becoming a memory.

I like your idea of a virtual card, one that you can keep around, too (you can easily keep a "Past Years" hyperlink for people to revisit). But you know, I have to admit, I still like getting physical stuff, even if it eventually goes into the trash bin.

We got a card today, from an old friend, and she took time to hand write something meaningful, and it sort of made our day.

- Sung

zoe said...

Good idea. Every year I buy cards. Every year I fail to send them. In fact, this year I didn't even write any. This might just be the answer.

Anonymous said...

I should add that I, too, really do like physical things sent through the mail...I've actually written a fair number of actual physical letters to friends this year, and one of them (to Skoog) was actually handwritten. (In a bar, no less!) I'm going to try to continue this in the new year.

I loved the old small town post office, or the idea of it...here's one that's still keeping to the old ways:


5 Red Pandas said...

I've loved the holiday greetings I've gotten from you guys!

Funny thing about post offices- it wasn't until I visited a post office outside NYC that I realized that not *all* POs have bullet proof glass. I was a bit disoriented.

The only thing I miss about my first teaching job was being part of a tight-knit English department. We all traded cards and I always wrote a short comic story that showed my co-workers a bit of my personality that didn't really come through when trying to teach teenagers to appreciate some damn literature (or how to read, which was more often the case).

My family used to hang a string across a wall and hang up Christmas and Chinese New Year cards from past years as part of our holiday decorations. The New Year cards I get from Taiwan are really pretty and my cousin makes an effort to write something poetic in English, so I'd hate to see everyone go digital even if it's easier.

That said- can't wait to see what you guys cook up next year!

Anonymous said...

Pandas, your card's in the mail!

McQ said...

My favorite was the MadLib. Hilarious on its own, and even better after we'd filled it in. We dearly love your snail mail cards but promise to love the online versions, too...