Sending recipes, advice, and kindness to strangers around the world has never been easier thanks to technology. Photo Credit: Canva
During a global pandemic, staying connected is vital for many people’s sanity. To many people, staying connected from a distance would include social media, texting, and video calls. But one way that many might view as unusual is staying connected via old fashioned snail mail.
A few months ago I stumbled onto r/RandomActsofCards, a subreddit dedicated to sending postcards all across the world. This community of more than 59,000 has citizens from every corner of the world. Representing six continents and hundreds of countries, it’s a large community of people that just want to stay connected. And with no need for masks or social distancing, it’s the perfect pandemic activity.
The idea is simple. You can offer, request, or exchange cards (and only cards – they are very strict on this) for any reason, with any willing user. There are offers of birthday wishes for friends and families, requests for life advice and funny stories, and cultural recipe exchanges, among other things. Members simply create posts detailing their offer or request and then private message with those interested.
While this idea of sending and receiving cards is probably appealing to many people, some might ask about privacy concerns, especially when it comes to sharing your personal information on the internet. There is no public sharing of addresses or even specific locations, and many users don’t use their real names. But sharing your address with a random stranger, even through private message, might still sound alarm bells in many people’s heads. To get around this, lots of users use PO boxes or work addresses for more privacy. Others though, don’t have a problem with it, and moderators are quick to ban anybody that seems fishy.
The cards that are sent vary greatly. While most of the cards I have sent and received have been travel themed postcards, some users go all out on creativity. I’ve seen offers of hand-painted dinosaur cards (with the dinosaur of your choosing), vintage cards from thrift stores, and even an embroidered rainbow card. And if you’ve received one that is extra special or has really made your day, you can post a shoutout ‘Thank You’ to that specific user.
My first post was an exchange with five other users of the most touristy postcards of our current cities. I received one from Istanbul, Sydney, Baltimore, and Lyons. The fifth one never arrived. I, in return, sent five touristy cards to those places and those users, each with a fun fact about Wellington, New Zealand and a badly drawn doodle. There is something so classic and genuine about sitting down, writing words with a pen, and then actually walking to a mailbox to send it.
And it’s exciting to receive one back. The first time I opened my letterbox and found a postcard was pure joy. Seriously, I felt like a giddy child again. You don’t know how long it will take, and it might never arrive, but the anticipation is real. Maybe because we live in such a fast-paced world it’s nice to slow down, or maybe it’s simply because we like getting stuff. I don’t know, I’m no psychologist.
People request in after they’ve had a bad day at work, or are particularly stressed about upcoming midterms. They make offers to celebrate a year of sobriety or the birth of their first child. Recently, some posts I’ve seen include users requesting love stories after a nasty break-up, offering “Save the USPS” cards for obvious reasons, and exchanging Pokemon-themed cards with other hard-core fans, just because they can. There was even a request for sympathy cards to the Estate of George Floyd after his murder.
The community is all-around a positive place, full of strangers writing funny, heartfelt, and genuine words to each other. And I think that’s why it works. Anonymity allows users to find common ground without the bias and prejudice people might have upon meeting face-to-face. You don’t have to know anything about the person’s background, socio-economic status, race, or religion in this group. Sometimes people connect over their shared love of certain books, movies, or extinct creatures, but sometimes people just connect over their common shared humanity.
In a never-ending world of bad news, Random Acts of Cards is the lighthearted joy we all need. Maybe you’re requesting cards because it’s your birthday, you’ve just been broken up with, or you’re struggling with joblessness, loneliness, or loss. Maybe you’re sending cards because you love to connect over shared interests, you want to make someone’s day, or you’re bored. Whatever your reason for being here, this community is there for you*.
*At a very safe distance