Total Pageviews

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Birthday Greetings, Now Sent Over Text and Twitter

Today, for my birthday, I received a slew of lovely birthday greetings.

By early morning I had stacked up 93 birthday wishes on Facebook â€" one even included a $5 Starbucks gift card! About 20 strangers digitally congratulated me on Google Plus. A dozen people chirped “happy birthday” to me on Twitter. Fifteen friends and family members sent me emoji-filled birthday wishes over text message. Eight over e-mail. Two voicemails. And one person yelled Happy Birthday on SnapChat.

But I didn’t receive a single physical birthday card. It was the first year since I was born that my birthday wishes were all digital.

The collapse of the greeting card industry has been a long time coming. According to a 2010 report by the United States Postal Service, the number of greeting cards mailed within the U.S. has declined by 24 percent from 2002 to 2010, and continues to drop today.

A report this year from IbisWorld, a research firm that monitors the greeting cards industry, the sale of traditional cards â€" including some other printed products like diaries â€" has fallen by 60 percent over the last decade, to $5 billion a year.

These declines are clearly hurting companies that once made billions of dollars from little square cards that required a pen and a stamp.

American Greetings, the No. 2 paper card maker after Hallmark, purchased its shares and went private this year after rapid declines in sales. American Greetings’ stock was valued at 65 percent less than it was in 1998. The company told The Wall Street Journal that it still had millions of American customers, but, there was a caveat: “The average customer is in their 40s.”

Hallmark’s card sales dropped to 5 billion cards a year in 2012, down from 6 billion in 2011.

So how are people wishing their loved ones happy birthdays? Another report by IbisWorld notes that digital greeting cards continue to rise, up to $4 billion in sales in 2013, a 20-percent increase from 2012.

But even that increase could be fleeting.

While these digital greetings companies, including Egreetings and Blue Mountain, have been on the rise for years, it seems that even that is too much for most of the people I know â€" not all of whom are digital nomads.

My 89-year-0ld grandfather e-mailed me happy birthday. My father called me (and left a voicemail). And my mother wished me and my twin sister birthday greetings on Twitter. Close friends who once took to Facebook to share their salutations, seemed to think that was now too impersonal and instead chose text messages as the preferred form of communication.

For me, I’m just grateful people remembered my birthday, though I probably have Facebook to thank for that, too.