SINGAPORE: SingPost recently said that it will raise postage rates for standard regular mail by almost 65 per cent from Oct 9. To help households manage increased costs, it will issue a booklet of 10 first local stamps to each household.
When I read this, my first thought was: Do people still use stamps? I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have sent mail over the past year – once for an insurance claim that required sending in original invoices, and another time when I mailed my new book to a friend.
With digitisation, we no longer rely on mail for things like correspondence or paying bills. Organisations that need to send documents and statements have largely gone paperless and many things that used to require mailing can now be done online. But as these stamps will be issued to households, I wonder if people still send mail to friends and loved ones.
While I seldom send mail, I also dread receiving it because the only items I receive are bills, newsletters from charities, and letters from banks, insurance companies and government organisations. It is a hassle tearing open envelopes, sorting through what needs my attention, then deciding if I should chuck the contents in the bin or recycle them.
RECEIVING MAIL WAS ONCE EXCITING
But receiving mail didn’t always feel like a bother. Growing up in a pre-internet era, getting letters was an exciting experience. As a kid, I would always listen out for the rumblings of the postman’s motorcycle and when I did, race to the mailbox hoping for a letter from my pen pals.
Before occasions like Christmas and Chinese New Year, I would make a list of friends I needed to mail greeting cards to, making sure to send the cards early so they would reach their destination in time. Receiving greeting cards from friends in the mail was part of the festivity too, and I always displayed the cards at home.
When I became an older teen and studied in an overseas college, my hostel mates and I would eagerly gather at the cafeteria before dinner to see if we received mail from home. I would also write long letters to my close friends in Singapore, and vice versa. These took time and effort but it was our only means of keeping in touch when international phone calls were expensive.
I count exchanging mail with loved ones as one of the simple joys of my childhood. Sadly, it’s something children today probably don’t experience much of. The only joy my two daughters derive from mail is when books or new Nintendo games we order online arrive.
Technology has revolutionised communications. Greetings can be sent instantaneously with stickers and GIFs on messaging platforms. Keeping in touch with friends and meeting new people is easy on social media, and not to mention, going paperless is also more environmentally friendly. It’s no surprise penning letters and cards is a dying art.
THE PERSONAL TOUCH OF HANDWRITTEN MAIL
But perhaps the datedness of sending handwritten mail has made it even more of a meaningful gesture today.
My daughters’ primary school has a yearly Post-A-Blessing project, where students get to design postcards for loved ones, friends or anyone they would like to encourage. The school then uses SingPost to mail out the postcards.
Whenever my girls’ postcards arrive in the mail, addressed to me and my husband, I would always be touched by their sweet messages and doodles. These postcards, which we put up at our desks at home, are constant reminders of their love for us.
Their Post-A-Blessing project also has students penning postcards to healthcare workers and support staff in their school like cleaners and security guards. It is a lovely gesture that would make their recipients’ day.
Even in a hyper-connected world, kids love receiving mail too. A friend who is a children’s book author and illustrator recently had some limited-edition postcards, and offered on social media to send them to readers with a message. A mum who took up the offer shared how happy her son was to have received the author’s personalised postcard.
Pen pals, which I used to keep as a child, have become popular among youth thanks to TikTok. Videos tagged #penpal have accumulated more than 470 million views on the platform, and feature users penning letters to strangers, complete with drawings and custom wax seals.
Many of these users picked up the hobby during COVID-19 lockdowns, for a sense of routine in an uncertain time.
Technology has accorded us more efficient ways of communicating. Still, the personal touch of a handwritten note is something emails and texts cannot replicate. The effort and love put into crafting a note is tangible to a recipient.
Though I don’t often mail letters or cards anymore, I’m looking forward to the stamps SingPost will give to households. I haven’t decided what I’ll do with them. Maybe I will store them as keepsakes and show them to my future grandchildren. For all we know, stamps will no longer be in use by then.
Or maybe I will dig out those old but still beautiful letter-writing sets and greeting cards sitting in my cupboard. I might write a letter to an old friend who shared on social media that she’s going through tough times, and send a card to an aunt I adore but don’t see often enough. I’m sure it would make for a lovely surprise, no?
Vivian Teo is a freelance writer and children’s book author. She is also a mother-of-two who blogs at her parenting and lifestyle website.