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Postcrossing and the joy of snail mails

Updated: Aug 4, 2019

17th of July 2019 marks 14th anniversary of Postcrossing. So, I thought it would be a good opportunity to explain this little hobby of mine which I gained last year.

Postcrossing started as an online project by Paulo Magalhães who just wanted to create a medium where some of his friends or friends of friends could send postcard to each other. And there it was, a site where people around the world visited to find a stranger they can send a postcard to.

It works in a very seamless way, as you register to the site with a brief introduction about you and with your address; you are eligible to send postcard to 5 members of Postcrossing. Your own country is excluded by default but you can include it if you want. So, every time

to click on send a post card and ask an address you are given a unique post card id. Indian postcrossers will have an ID starting from IN, Germans will have DE, Chinese would have CN denoting their country’s name which is followed by a numeric value. You should write this ID on your postcard for the receiver. Once the receiver gets your postcard, he/she is responsible to log into postcrossing site and update that they have received a postcard with the post card ID and it will automatically map to you. As soon as your postcard is registered, you or your address is now eligible to receive a postcard from some random user and that’s how the circle repeats. Postcrossing limits the number of postcard you can send at one time on the basis of your actual activity so that they can avoid spammers or weed out users who break any community rules via reports by users.

The question you might have is the utility of this service today. After all, talking or reaching people have never been easier and it would make no sense to do the same on the slowest medium out there and you aren’t wrong. But, communicating is not the purpose of this exercise. When I send a postcard, it can take anything from 2 weeks to 2 months for it to reach its destination and I wait anxiously for it. The day it does, I get an email from the website with a message from the receiver. It feels a certain kind of joy that a random stranger at some part of the world would be pleasantly surprised to find a little card/letter asking his well being. In a similar vein, I am quite the happy bird when I find a postcard from a different country and love to read what they have written. Some of the cards actually represent the country and it is pretty neat to find what people think best represent them/their country via a postcard. The other factor is the lost art of writing letters. The entire Postal service these days is basically a courier for your packages and often the only thing you expect from your letter box is a bill or a document from your bank or insurer. We might as well be the last generation to send or receive a letter. Just think of this, when did you last use pen and paper to write something to communicate; I guess it was last used in your school/college to pass a note or may be a greeting card which you were forced to sign for your colleague's birthday or farewell but that is it. Postcrossing makes you a little more than that, read about a person on his profile and think what they would like to read from you. You ponder and write something cheerful to a stranger with absolute no expectations to get anything from him/her. Postcrossing might just give writing letters few more years.

So, if you are wondering if indulging in this hobby is worth your time then I would say stop wondering and give this a chance. Give the universe an opportunity to send and receive a smile from a different part of the world. You would interacting with a grand mother in USA, a teacher in Germany, a pharmacist in Japan or a teenager in Lithuania… just so many different people interacting on a website with possibly fastest means of communication actually pick the slowest one. All for a smile or a joy of knowing something about someone somewhere. I say it is worth it.

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