I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time so close to home in my adult life. Even as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out and new cases drop in San Francisco, like a lot of people I’ve found it more reassuring (and easier to find a toilet!) to simply stay within a one-mile radius of where I sleep.
Trips across town requiring two or more bus rides don’t even cross my non-car-owning mind anymore. Forget it.
Social media does keep most of us a certain kind of connected, but I can’t be the only one sick of the pixels, the scroll, the glow. Frankly by this point we’re boring each other stupid anyway. How many damned “cat sleeping in a weird place” pics do I have to sort through to feel like I’m actually getting closer to someone?
That’s why I’ve hauled out my postcard collection and started putting it to good use. There’s something so intimate about forms of communication that don’t prime you for an immediate response. To handwrite a brief, one-way message to a friend is to submerge yourself in that friend’s actual memory and accumulated presence in your life, what they mean to you, what they’d like to know. Social media can’t compare.
Staying close to home and learning to see it in new ways can be surprising and rejuvenating. It can also be maddening. And strangely exhausting.
Writing postcards to friends across town or across the Bay allows me to sum up a few little bullet points about my life that just wouldn’t work on an electronic feed. Postcards are short but significant reflections impervious to any collective flow; nobody owns or controls them except you and your friends. Sending them makes me feel less isolated, more nourished, than social media does.
My postcard-writing habit surely seems a little less anachronistic while I’m reaching out across a pandemic city. But when COVID ends and friends are once again too busy to meet, it may be a habit I just can’t kick.