How The ‘Postcard Effect’ Illustrates Things Might Not Be Exactly What They Seem

How The ‘Postcard Effect’ Illustrates Things Might Not Be Exactly What They Seem

Originally posted on

We all have that friend that recently went to *insert beautiful destination here*, right? You know, that one that just got back from Rome and that THE BEST time? Or how about the one that just got back from the Gold Coast of Australia with that nice tan while you and I were at home, working away? We’ve all been there, I know.

But what if that experience wasn’t all that the postcard said it was?

I’ve got a story.

A few weeks ago I got a postcard form a good friend who went to Thailand. Yes, you already know that the postcard had a long-tail boat docked on a beautiful sandy beach with clear blue skies. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, nothing new here.

I was jealous. I just had a long day at work, got home late, and really wasn’t feeling well. I opened my mailbox and there it was. The postcard (what was this, 1995?!). I was so happy for my friend, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for myself.

And so as I went to sleep, I thought of my friend running down the beach with Chariots of Fire playing in the background and the scene shot in slow motion. No, a tear didn’t roll down my cheek, and yes, I’m being dramatic, but I think it is safe to say we’ve all been staring at the ceiling thinking the same thing before.

But recently that friend got back and we met up for a drink. When I asked about the trip, I found out something a little shocking. While away, my friend experienced many days of rain, the hotel they had booked was overbooked and they stayed in a hostel, and the bus they took into town got a flat. Truthfully, he said, the trip wasn’t that great. Sure, they made the best of it, but it certainly wasn’t the picture I had drawn up in my head.

And that was how the Postcard Effect was born.

Consider this: many things we experience in the day are what people want us to think they are, and not an accurate reflection of the experience or person being described.

Think of that Facebook profile that doesn’t represent your friend (or your life). That’s your postcard.

Think of that dating site that tricked you into thinking you were going onto a date with that beautiful person that just, well, wasn’t. That was their postcard.

Think of that job you may have had that really was nothing like the job description said it was going to be like. That was that company’s postcard.

Think of that ad you saw for your favourite burger that you know you should avoid but got anyways only to see a sad pile of food that looks nothing like the picture. That was the postcard.

And so when I’m looking around and seeing various profiles, accounts, advertisements, and job descriptions, I learned to understand that things aren’t always as they seem. We’ve all become good storytellers and in a world that is more competitive than ever before, where more information is present and easier to access, perhaps our not-so-representative postcards getting more and more misleading.

The other thing I learned through this experience is that our ‘postcards’, or the lives we are living, are something we can be grateful for. Emerson Csorba talks about ‘ruthless comparison’ and how we often strive to compete against people that may not actually share the same wants, desires, and needs as we have. Knowing that we can appreciate our successes and accomplishments for what they are helps dull the envy that the postcard effect has.


If you’re interested in the work we’re doing, or want to subscribe to our articles, please click HERE!

Follow Eric on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn. Check out his TEDx talk here. Also, check out The DRYVER Group for more information.

Leave a comment