Going Dutch Tweet

Twitter and postcards, they have a lot in common.

I visited Holland recently . .  . Holland, Michigan that is.

Dutch people arrived here from the Netherlands in the middle of the 1800’s mainly seeking out religious freedom.

A popular Tulip Festival began in Holland in 1929. Today a half-million people attend this spring festival that displays millions of tulips throughout the city. This festival centered around a flower has been called the Best Small Town Festival in America.

I’m a museum junkie so I had to see the Holland Museum while in town. The museum is currently displaying the postcard collection of Mike Van Ark which at one time contained 5,000 postcards. This exhibit shows off cards that came from Holland area tourist sites as far back as 1900.

As I was walking through the gallery, it hit me that these cards may just be the precursors to Twitter.

The definition of a postcard: Concise messages written on a small 3 1/2 inch by 5 inch rectangle of paper. The postal service delivered these messages from people wishing to communicate with friends, family, and co-workers about what they were doing on their vacations or trips.

A tweet is a post or status update on Twitter that allows 140 characters or less per tweet. Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected. A tweet likes to answer the question, “What are you doing?”

Postcards were far from being instant messages, but the few days wait time for these notes to come through wasn’t all that bad in the time of railroads and horses.

In Victorian London, mail was collected and delivered up to 7 times per day, 6 days a week in some locations near the main postal office. Rural locations saw mail delivery and collection of 4 times a day. Mail could be delivered to your door nearly as often as you may check Twitter today.

I thought I had a novel idea linking postcards to Twitter. It turned out to be not so novel after all. Searching through the internet I found this website that made the same connection years ago: Twitter an Instant Hit with Users Since 1902. Oh well, I observe too little, too late. But onward I go.

These old museum postcards were used more for personal communications between people. Very often they came from a tourist destination complete with a photo of an interesting attraction at that location. As a marketing tool, the recipients of these cards may have felt the urge to visit these places because of the attractive pictures and messages printed on them.

Twitter is full of marketing potential. A celebrity with a large Twitter following can mention a product and the website for that product can crash due to the large number of visits generated by that tweet.

Tourists flock to Holland and still purchase postcards of tulips, windmills, wooden shoes, or other Dutch treats and then jot down quick notes to mail back home. Tweets are faster, but this old-fashioned piece of paper remains popular. Apparently a large group of collectors keep the history alive. All in all another fun trip traveling back in time.

The last 150 years have seen vast technological advances. More and better machines work and play for people. Yet doesn’t it seem that despite rapid change in technology, humankind keeps rehashing its own essence? What we want to work and play at keeps constant.

There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.  

Harry Truman


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