How many words can you fit on the back of a postcard? Given that the address, stamp, and printed text take up space, you may just fit 25 to 30 words in the narrow white square on the left, and that’s if you write in a tame-sized cursive. Despite the brevity of the handwritten note on a traditional postcard, the image on the front offers a context for the recipient whether it portrays random people sunbathing on the beach in Venice, Fla. or a panoramic view of Montreal.
The postcard leaves out a lot of details – never meant to reveal the true nature of an experience – it offers no more than a snapshot. And who is to say that the snapshot isn’t pure fiction? Perhaps, it conveys an imagined sense of what we hoped a trip would be like for those back home but not what really took place. There wasn’t a postcard for the time I was knocked over by a huge wave at Point Pleasant only to surface without my bikini top or for the time I was bedridden for days from food poisoning in Costanza, Dom.
For many, the white dialog box on Facebook and Twitter has replaced the postcard tradition. Gone is the lone, unknown surfer catching a wave. Now, it’s you, caught on camera, white water rafting down a turbulent river. The expressed sentiment, “wish you were here,” has been replaced with, “look at me.” Despite the fact that you aren’t visualizing all 432 friends or followers as you trek up Machu Picchu they end up going along for the ride once you start uploading images step by step. But what do you say to all those people? “Thinking of you,” doesn’t seem plausible.
Instead you combine images and text to weave together a narrative. You leave footprints of text that form an online trail or tale rather – a story for the friend or follower – your very own postcard fiction.