| A woman checks for messages on her mobile phone in Beijing. (AFP)
It is enough to bring tears to the eyes of a donkey in a sunhat. “Wish you were here” is becoming “wsh u wr hr” as text messages threaten the future of the postcard.
Until a generation ago, it was the norm for friends and family on holiday from Blackpool to Bognor to scribble a few words on a postcard featuring either the local promenade or a cartoon involving a lecherous middle-aged man, a buxom blonde and a misunderstanding over the word “organ”.
But as the popularity of foreign holidays grew, holidaymakers tired of being home before their postcards arrived.
Sending them will be a thing of the past in another generation, according to current trends. Royal Mail figures show the numbers posted are falling by a million a year, from 30 million five years ago to 25 million.
Meanwhile research shows that 30 per cent of the population now never send postcards and 53 per cent say they will send fewer in future as instant forms of communication such as e-mails, text messages and picture and video messaging take over. A total of 14 per cent of Britons said they had no time to write a card on holiday, while 10 per cent preferred to phone home rather than write, according to interviews with 1,000 customers of Thomson Holidays.
A psychologist, Marie Angelou, of Sussex University, said text messages lacked the lasting quality and intimacy of a postcard. Modern communication methods were “mundane and simply functional”.
She said: “Postcards can evoke the real atmosphere of your holiday in a way that nothing else can do, and are for more than a moment.”
John Bateman, of the Postcard Traders’ Association, said technological advancement was not the same as progress. He said: “As people get used to e-mailing, we now find it an effort to write a postcard, find a stamp and get to a post box. Text messages are killing the careful crafting of the written word.”
He added that there had been few historically important postcards sent. Those worth most on the collectors’ market are the ones posted home from the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage when it docked on the Irish coast. These have fetched more than £1,000.