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Could social media stamp out the post office?

As the U.S. Postal Service struggles to stay afloat in a rapidly changing world, could it be that social media are helping to push it over the edge?

As the U.S. Postal Service struggles to stay afloat in a rapidly changing world, could it be that social media are helping to push it over the edge?

Could technology put a "forever stamp" on snail mail?

"We can't continue to operate on a precipice," Joe Corbett, the United States Postal Service's chief financial officer, said at a recent news conference.

Coupled with the worst recession in 80 years, the USPS is facing challenges as the world of letters, postcards and stamps has taken a backseat in the millennium of e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

As Congress looks into the postal service's future, the USPS recently announced plans to cut Saturday mail deliveries, except in the cases of express mail and packages. The move is expected to save $2 billion per year.

Despite campaign advertising for the 2012 election through mail and a large projection of holiday postal service, the post office lost $1.3 billion in the final quarter of 2012. October, November and December saw mail volume decreased by 3 percent and the total amount of mail decreased from 43.6 to 43.5 billion pieces.

Part of the problem is a rigid financial structure.

"The post office is prohibited from raising its prices beyond certain levels each year by the government," said Douglas Webber, assistant professor of labor economics at Temple University.

"The problem is that while their prices are essentially fixed, their costs are not," he said. "For example, fuel costs have risen substantially, but the post office is not allowed to raise prices enough to offset the increased costs. There are many services which the post office performs at a loss. It costs them more to provide the service than they are paid by the consumer."

David Ross, an associate professor of economics at Bryn Mawr College, said the postal service's pension plan may factor into some of its financial problems.

"My understanding is that the primary reason the postal service is losing so much money recently is Congress' insistence that the USPS overfund its pension obligations - well beyond the standards set for a typical corporation," Ross said

Postal officials are also begging Congress to eradicate their ties to a health-care mandate. This mandate dictates the postal service prepay for expected retiree health-care expenses, which have risen to almost $5 billion.

That doesn't mean the postal agency has been set back completely. Shipping and packaging rates have increased by 4 percent, according to a spokesman from the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Due to the prevalance of social media and technology, more people have become online consumers. That means more parcels and packages are being shipped, which in turn means more revenue for the postal service.

Social media also are being used to remind people of the importance of the postal service.

Facebook designated Saturday, Feb. 16, as "Because We Love Snail Mail!" day, which encouraged users to mail a letter or postcard to someone on that date.

Another Facebook group was created for those who find joy in writing letters the old-fashioned way.

Even though the postal service has been on shaky financial ground before social media came into prominence, some are betting it won't fall off the ledge.

"For 200 years, the Postal Service has faced technological innovations such as the telephone, fax machine or telegraph, emerging stronger each time," wrote Fredric Rolando, the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, in a recent article.

"If lawmakers address the pre-funding fiasco, rather than reducing services to Americans and their businesses, it can do so once again."