As the U.S. Postal Service considers closing hundreds of post offices nationwide to save money, one question looms, especially for those 25 and younger: Who'd notice?

During her freshman year at the University of Virginia, Kaitlyn McDowell enjoyed receiving the occasional letter with a care package from younger cousins.

Beyond that, though, the 19-year-old from Ellicott City mostly corresponds by e-mail, text messaging and social networking, like many of her generation.

"It's easier. You don't have to go through the trouble of getting stamps, writing the letter, sealing it and taking it to the post office," said McDowell.

The paperless preferences of McDowell and her peers reflect a generational shift from a time when letter writing was a preferred form of communication. It's one of the reasons the U.S. Postal Service, which has projected a net loss of more than $7 billion at the end of this fiscal year, is considering closing hundreds of post offices.

The postal service says that third-quarter mail volume is down 7 billion pieces, or 14 percent, compared with a year ago - the largest consecutive third-quarter drop in total volume since 1971. To offset the resulting budget crunch, officials are also considering discontinuing Saturday deliveries and eliminating some classes of stamps. They say that some collection boxes are already being removed from city streets, in part because they contain just 25 or fewer pieces of mail within a given period.

Yet for many twentysomethings and teens who have grown up on digital media, post offices and collection boxes are about as vital as pay phones.