Is Twitter just the modern version of the picture postcard?

12 Oct

The latest edition (October 2009) of Picture Postcard Monthly includes a reference to a piece in the Daily Telegraph about a study which suggests that Tweeting is just the modern equivalent of sending a picture postcard.

The study by Julia Gillen of Lancaster University and Nigel Hall of Manchester Metropolitan University highlighted some of the similarities between the postcard and tweets, such as the limited amount of space, the use of abbreviations and text speak, the speed at which the messages are delivered and the sheer volume of messages sent (calculated at around 6 billion postcards sent between 1901 and 1910).

More details can be found on the Manchester Metropolitan University website, including details of how to read some of the postcard messages that are being sent again, but this time on Twitter.

Interestingly as I was checking out the story on the Telegraph.co.uk website I noticed another story, which shows that postcards aren’t always the quickest way of sending messages. This particular postcard took forty years to reach its destination, unfortunately the intended recipients had since moved on (if not passed on).

I seldom send postcards these days (but I do collect modern ones as well as old ones) but then I have never tweeted yet either. I wonder if Twitter will still be around 100 years on, if not what will have taken its place as an instant messaging system?

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4 Responses to “Is Twitter just the modern version of the picture postcard?”

  1. beingmaisie October 16, 2009 at 8:25 am #

    Interesting post John. I am on Twitter although i hardly ever use it and certainly dont enjoy it as much as sending postcards. I like collecting old ones too especially if they have been posted. I am a bit of voyeur of peoples messages, again a bit like Twitter i suppose.

  2. John Gasson October 19, 2009 at 8:22 pm #

    I never really saw much point to Twitter, which is why I never signed up. Postcards are much more interesting and I really ought to send more.

  3. andytgeezer November 10, 2009 at 9:05 am #

    I’ve noticed a few sources likening Twitter to picture postcards lately. I personally don’t agree that Twitter is the modern day equivalent of a postcard, as it’s intention is to broadcast more widely, whereas a postcard was a personal message intended for a single recipient.

    As such they need to be viewed within their context as potentially valuable historical sources, butnot in the same way, as Twitter has a certain exhibitionism about it.

    I think that facebook is perhaps nearer to the picture postcard as it is intended to show those “I’m having fun in Bognor Regis” shots that in the past may have been sent as postcards.

    Personally I love postcards and send and received loads. Check out my REAL wall to see what I mean. I think that postcards really have a much more personal touch than electronic media

  4. John Gasson November 10, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    I love what you are doing with your REAL wall, you just can’t beat physical post coming through your letterbox. I turned off my Facebook account a while back and never got started with Twitter.
    I would agree that Twitter is more of a broadcast media, and I would personally equate the postcard with a text message, not meant to be read other than by the intended recipient.

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