While we’re growing accustomed to videoconferencing for work meetings, FaceTiming to chat with friends and sharing more memes than ever via WhatsApp, I would like to make a case for good, old fashioned, hold-it-in-your-hands mail. The United States Postal Service remains in operation under the Bay Area’s new shelter-in-place orders, and if you have either a post office or a collection box in your vicinity, you can make use of their services.
I know what you’re wondering: Can mail carry the coronavirus? A study published March 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests the virus can only survive up to 24 hours on cardboard. So unless an infected mail carrier coughs or sneezes directly onto your mail as they deliver it, and you then put that mail directly into your mouth, this is a fairly low-risk way to communicate.
Chances are you usually only send postcards of the “wish you were here, look at my glorious vacation” variety. But I’m here to extoll the virtues of the everyday postcard. Sending a friend or family member a handwritten note (on the back of a strange or beautiful image) is a way of showing them, Hey, I’m thinking of you. (Extra points if you make your own postcards with your own drawings.)
And instead of going the easy, instantaneous route (a text message, a bitmoji), a postcard demonstrates you took the time to put that sentiment down on paper, in your own handwriting. Plus, getting real mail—as opposed to political mailers, pre-approved credit card offers or flimsy collections of coupons—is still one of the great joys in this world.
In a moment of rapidly breaking news, constant refreshes and truly alarming push alerts, the more temperate speed of sending and receiving mail can be a solace. Also, perhaps most importantly/selfishly, mail begets mail.