If you're anything like me, you still cherish postcards, do your best to send them to friends from the road and stockpile those you receive, occasionally, from distant lands.
But numbers expose the limits of our passion. A recent survey shows that nearly half of us have never sent a postcard. A third of those surveyed claimed that the delayed arrival of these missives makes them pretty much pointless. Maybe that's true.
It is easy to blame social media -- especially Twitter with its constant stream of brain droppings and photo-friendly Facebook -- for killing the postcard. These networks have essentially mechanized the age-old ritual of loading up the carousel, allowing us to bombard our long-suffering friends with vacation snapshots even as we lounge by the pool.
Why seek out a stamp -- and then a mailbox -- when we can toss off a note from the road with little more than a few taps and have it go to everyone we know?
There's the nostalgia of the postcard, the callback to the time of steamer trunks and suits on airplanes, of transatlantic crossings and Hemingway-sanctioned debauchery across Europe. For me, there's something hefty about the simple physical permanence of a postcard, flimsy as they may be, because they actually come from somewhere, or a giftshop in the lobby of somewhere anywhere. Even the chintziest images require an aesthetic choice, an active decision by the sender that, yes, this is the image I want to send home.
These are the reasons I'm so enamored of the latest creative enterprise that's trending on the web, the animated GIF. Like postcards, GIFs are trigger a sort of nostalgia, albeit for the early 90s and, also like postcards, they seem more self-aware than snapshots. They know they are ridiculous and they don't care. The mini-movies are also quick enough to be disposable, cheap enough to be dashed off and, if done thoughtfully, able to deliver a tiny tidbit of the exotic through an artful window. GIFs offer the best of the old through the vessel of the new.
On a recent trip to Portland, Maine, I tried my hand at creating a few travel GIFs. Some turned out better than others. But all of them remind me of a particular place and, even more importantly, the way I felt when I was there.
iPhone and Android users on the go can create some basic GIFs with the user-friendly Gifboom app.