Saturday, August 10, 2019

What Happens When We Don't Write Letters Anymore?

As is my periodic custom I am perpetually attempting to organize and downsize. The current prod has been re-doing floors in several rooms of our home, which means I had to remove everything out of my office for a week. Some of those removed files and folders, knick knacks and junk, will not be returned to the small space that is my unique version of a man-cave.

Which means that I am also re-arranging things in the storage area of my garage, so I can still save what I want (and hopefully not all).

All this re-arranging resulted in my finding a number of things I haven't seen in a while including items I had placed on these shelves when we moved to this house in 1993. Hence this photo of letters from my brothers, parents and grandmother, which I discovered last night.

It's strange to think that people seldom write letters any more. Instead we email, call or occasionally Skype. And yes, we do still send cards on special occasions. This letter writing business, however, seems to fallen by the wayside in our new digital world.

Here's something I've noticed. Most people generally don't go back and re-read old emails, unless it's  work related and there's some strategic importance in the communication.

I'm not suggesting that I will proceed to read all these letters just because I found them, but I'm going to place them where I will have them for that future time when I've slowed down a step or two. It's an almost certainty I will not review my old email correspondence from the past thirty years. In point of fact, I wouldn't even know how to find most of it older than two or three years. I had a different email address and am certain any correspondence not printed is lost in cyberspace.

Remember Pen Pals? Nowadays I suppose it's replaced with "Friend Requests." But it's not really same, because the quantity of new "friends" diminishes the possibility of real depth, or the special feeling associated with receiving the next letter in your mailbox.

Many of my letters home from college or when I lived abroad had little personal touches, a doodle in the margin or maybe a drawing I'd done would be enclosed. The dizzying array of emojis is an attempt to make personalization possible, but it's really not the same. Or at least it doesn't feel that way to me.

I'd like to believe that letter writing was more thoughtful than what passes for written communication today (as in texting). Today we dash off a few sentences and hit send. Or maybe we "speak" our message into our iPhone and hit send, often in haste and frequently without even reading it to notice the incorrect (sometimes ridiculous) messages we've just sent.

I decided to ask Google to feed me a few article links regarding this decline in letter writing and it seems I'm not the first to have noticed. One link led to a letter to the editor about this issue, with the following sentiment expressed regarding social media not being quite the same.

"Facebook is akin to being perpetually trapped in small talk at a party."

Another comment in this letter to the editor was how he felt like a vanishing breed of people who could still write in cursive. What is sad about that is that I half wonder if the next generation will even be able to decipher their grandparents' cursive handwriting?

All this to say I've found batches of letters that I'd forgotten I had. I read a few and was touched. I'm curious what the future will bring.

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