As the digital revolution has marched on over the past thirty years or so, postcards have more or less fallen by the wayside. Which, on the one hand probably saves a few trees from being felled but on the other means we lose something quite special; hard copies of a memory.
A few months ago my grandmother showed me a book of old postcards that belonged to her Aunt Flossie. Now, not only is this a fabulous name (clearly) but the postcards contained within the book were incredible.
Some of them showed bizarre (and a little bit disturbing) images of polka dotted clowns:
While others attempted to be humorous in their outlook (I’m not sure if my modern outlook is missing the joke?):
Taking the postcards very carefully from their holdings in the book revealed the scrawlings on the back. Using the cards like modern-day text messages one of them simply proclaims “I’ll see you at 3 if the train comes in on time.”
One of my favourites is this one from Gem asking Nancy to feed her guinea pigs (heaven forbid John and Sid go to them!). It was sent in 1906, over 100 years ago, but reading it that day felt like it was sent so very recently. In 100 years time we won’t have this. Nobody saves text messages – and even if you do, the technology on which it was received will be so obsolete you probably won’t be able to access it anyway.
So for all this talk about the digital revolution making our lives better and easier, and all of that (which I’m not denying for one second it is) at the same time it’s very transient. Ink and paper (kept in good conditions of course) could last for a hell of a longer and requires nothing but the ability to see to be appreciated.
This one of Ada’s house amused me so much because of the writing on the back, because it reminded me of the equivalent of an early twentieth century Facebook or Myspace. Here’s me, outside my house! And then it occurred to me, the postcard book is a collection of memories and evidence of friends and social contacts… and lo and behold the phrase social networking popped into my head.
So whether it’s now, 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, 100 years in the future, or whenever really human beings want to be social, want to interact and ultimately want to create what we now call a “social network”.
And you thought it was all brand new.
As a final thought: any thoughts on what this might be about?