… and why it doesn’t matter
When did we stop sending postal mail to our friends and family?
The practice of sending written messages is probably as ancient as handwriting, but organised post service required an expansive and robust organisation. We can relate the relay the development of postal service to the creation of the first royal administrations. Persian administration had a well documented postal services: “The best-documented claim (Xenophon) attributes the invention to the Persian King Cyrus the Great (550 BCE), who mandated that every province in his kingdom would organize reception and delivery of post to each of its citizens. He also negotiated with neighbouring countries to do the same and had roads built from the city of Post in Western Iran all the way up to the city of Hakha in the East.”
With the development of annual leaves in Europe, postcards business started to burst. With the creation of public administration holidays in 1853 in France and the creation of national holidays in Germany, combined with the development of the railways in Europe starting at the beginning of nineteenth-century in England, postcard had fertile ground for its development. The postcard industry burst at the end of the nineteenth century. The golden age of postcards started at the end of the nineteenth century with large popular exhibitions attracting a lot of travellers far from home for unusual and popular events.
Sending letters and postcard is an old story! What happened for such an ancient human practice to decline? Did the email replace post mail? The rise of the volume of email seems logically correlated with the decline of snail mail. Since 2006, statistics observe a year-by-year decrease of US post service volumes. An article of The New York Times dating from 2005 explains that “The harmful side of the Internet’s impact is obvious but statistically less important than many would guess”. It associates the decline of the postal mail with the development of the telephone.
So if the decline of postal service is linked to the development of the electronic messaging system as phone and internet, it probably doesn’t matter as much as to consider how much we take care of giving news to friend and family, regardless of the mean of communication.
During the confinement of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were locked down all over the world, several billions of human beings. Many created connected to their friend over the phone, internet and video conference. During this sanitary crisis, I experienced an increase in connectivity. In video conferences, meetups and training, I heard so many times “I participated in 4 hours of video conferences today!”. Would the video conference replace email, phone calls and postal mail? It probably doesn’t matter! What matters is how much we care about each other.
I would love seeing statistics about that, but it would be a colossal enterprise to measure the worldwide volume of exchanges all means included!