Why I Don't Like Electronic Greeting Cards

by Kaitlin Duck Sherwood
There are now many companies that will help you celebrate the holiday season by sending electronic greeting cards to your friends. You just need to select a picture, type a greeting, give your friend's email address, et voilà! They will get an email message telling them where to pick the message up. All they have to do is click on a link to retrieve your card. Nice, huh?

Well, I feel like a Scrooge for saying this, but I really dislike electronic greeting cards.

For starters, I'm selfish enough that I want to know that my friends spent a little effort on me. While I don't expect my friends to make beautiful cards themselves, paper cards show that they have invested a little in keeping our friendship alive. They have to go to the store, pick a card, pay for it, find a pen, write something, address the card, stamp it, and take it to the mailbox. This isn't a huge effort or expense, but it is something.

Because electronic greeting cards only take about three seconds to send, they give me the message that I'm only worth three seconds of my friends' time. If my Web browser isn't already open, then I have to spend almost as much time to pick the message up as it did for them to send it.

Furthermore, the notification message usually comes from the greeting card company, not my friend. Why is this company telling me that I have a card from Mabel? Why doesn't Mabel tell me directly whatever she has to say? I get flashbacks of childhood, where Billy had to ask Sally to tell Jessie that Billy sort of likes Jessie.

Maybe I should be happy that my friends are thinking of me at all, but there are some technical issues that also make me leery. For most electronic greetings, I get a somewhat anonymous message from a somewhat anonymous place asking me to click on a link. What's going to be at the other end of the link? For all I know, the other side of the link will have pictures of naked women, advertisements for toner cartridges, or political sloganeering.

Even if it is a card from a friend, it could be something I don't want -- particularly at work. Maybe my friend thought I'd like a card with a picture of a naked man. That would not be an appropriate picture to have on my screen when my coworkers walk by. Or perhaps the card will play a song, alerting everyone in the vicinity that I wasn't working on my status report.

Worse, clicking on a link could be hazardous. A malicious person could forge the link text so that instead of going to a Web site, it opens an attachment with a virus. Or, it could take me to a Web page with a virus in it. Now, I know a lot about email software, so I think I've got my email and Web browser configured so that I'm not vulnerable to this kind of attack -- but I'm not so arrogant that I think that there will never be a virus writer smarter than me.

Finally, in order for a card to get to me, my friend had to give some company my email address. Frankly, I get enough junk e-mail already. The last thing I need is for the greeting card company to sell my address to a toner cartridge company!

So this holiday season, send me a paper card, call me on the phone, or send me email directly to let me know you're thinking of me. Just please don't make me guess what's on the other end of a link.

Bah humbug!

Copyright 2000 Kaitlin Duck Sherwood