To Send an E-Card or a Paper Card…That is the Question

I seem to have a number of friends, co-workers and acquaintances who celebrate their birthdays in the spring and summer. So needless to say, I’ve been sending out a number of greetings lately, both in electronic and paper form. And that got me wondering what the criteria is as to when you send an electronic greeting, or when you send a paper one.

So, of course, I turned to the source of all answers these days….the Internet. And, of course, the answer was “it depends”. How more crystal clear could it be than that!

Here’s some of what I found. That the question has been around since at least the turn of the 21st century, according to an article from the Baltimore Sun and then in 2011, the Emily Post Institute announced that electronic greetings were perfectly acceptable for holiday cards. And, as those closest to me know, I am, if nothing else, a stickler for the rules of etiquette. (For those of you who don’t know me that well, please read that last sentence tongue in check.)

I also found some interesting commentary that men were more likely to send e-cards than women. And I suspect that’s true. Think about it. The last time you were in Hallmark, or the card aisle of the grocery store or drug store, were you in the company of men or women? Yes, that’s what I thought your answer would be. Me too. And also that younger people were more likely to send e-cards than those of the older generation. No surprise there either. It’s simply a matter of being more familiar and comfortable with the technology involved. Sorry Mom.

And it may be more than that. I wonder if sending cards simply isn’t on the radar of some members of the younger generation. (Oh dear… Am I dating myself when I start speaking of a “younger generation”?) So posting a Happy Birthday on someone’s Facebook page is sufficient. But I don’t mean to judge here, I’m just as guilty of a simple wall posting, even when I’d rather send a card, but these are acquaintances that are “just” Facebook friends, or have become “just Facebook friends” as our personal contact has faded. You see, I don’t actually have mailing addresses for them. Yes, that’s a poor excuse. In this day and age of cyber tracking, it’s fairly easy to find a mailing address for just about anybody. I’m just being lazy about it, at least for birthdays.

Whatever the reasons, laziness, unawareness, ease of use, environmental considerations (hadn’t even thought about that one until I started this research!), apparently the printed greeting card industry is taking a big hit from the popularity of e-cards and of custom printed cards, according to a 2013 Market Watch report: a 60% decline in sales of traditional greeting cards (and other printed matter) from 2003-2013, compared to a jump in the sales of e-cards and custom printed ones created and ordered online from $65 million in 2002 to $3.5 billion in 2012. As a couple of sources pointed out, it’s not that sending e-cards is the easy way out. In fact, it can take quite a bit of time to choose an e-card, play around with fonts, colors, and other creative elements during the design process. It may even take more time than it would to drive to the store, pick out a card, pay for it and put it in the mail!

So, what’s the answer for me? Yup, you guessed it… depends. The important thing is that you make the effort to reach out to someone. Birthday, illness, anniversary, or other occasion worth noting. Or even “just because”.  I think I’m more likely to just use an electronic greeting for birthdays, particularly for acquaintances. Serious illnesses, sympathy cards, and weddings however still seem to warrant a paper card where a handwritten message is required. Other instances, such as a light-hearted “pick me up” card, could go either way – a cute, animated e-card could work just as well as a humorous paper card.

So what’s your preference?


Filed under Card Etiquette, ECards, Paper Cards

2 Responses to To Send an E-Card or a Paper Card…That is the Question

  1. Interesting. What about Thank You cards for an informational interview or for taking the time to consider me as a candidate for an open position — are these better as actual cards or is an electronic card acceptable?

    • Cindy Sauer

      I think anything to do with a job should still be done the old fashioned way — in handwriting. Of course, the last time I did that, the interviewer hadn’t even gotten my thank you note before they had called me to tell me they’d chosen someone else for the position…. Today’s world is moving faster, so maybe e-notes are acceptable here too.