1997 it was postcards.
2005 all of the above.
I tried to roughly estimate the number of “Merry X-mas” and “Happy New Year” messages I received (or rather – was exposed to?) over this holiday season. Probably in the range of 200? Or 300? In addition to the channels listed above, also came through Skype chats, blogs, RSS feeds, Facebook, Orkut, Twitter, you name it.
Weirdly enough the fact that no single asynchronous channel of delivery, neither analog or digital, clearly dominates over others any more has made it less stressful to be a receiver of good wishes. I have time to physically read through the paper postcards, because there aren’t many. Number of SMS-s is in repliable range. Due to my work I am good at quickly sorting through incoming digital messages and feeds I subscribe to, allowing very little interruption from mass mailings and pure spam – both problems of e-mail and social networks.
Another aspect is that each channel there is has a different level of trust and closeness to it. A good friend who could use any of the above will pick the right channel, timing and message that will get your attention.
In short, the ones that matter, get through. Even if the total number of all messages is much larger than it used to be.
On the flip side, a simple principle I really tried to follow this year when sending greetings: no matter which channel, do not send anything you will not / can not include the addressee’s name in.
No “write to 500 Orkut friends’ scrapbooks at once”. No “send SMS to everyone in adress book”. No reuse of any “xmas cards 2003” mailing list in Outlook. This limits your throughput and you don’t reach everyone you’d like – true. But the ones you do can really be sure it is personal.
And finally, there is nothing more personal than synchronous communication. Call. No wait – make that a video call.