In a world of texting, social media, and Skype, we increasingly rely on electronic communication to stay in contact with the people we care about, that are both near and far. I totally admit that I am often one of these very people, relying on Facebook Messenger group chats to reach out to my friends more than I ever pick up a phone to call them.
That being said, I’ve always liked to keep a balance in my life and to offset incessant reliance on electronic gadgets to keep me in the loop with all my friends and family. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved writing letters to the people I’m closest with on the topics of anything and everything. Particularly, my cousin and I write frequent letters to each other about the goings-on of our lives; it’s a routine I’m happy to have picked up and something I feel everyone should get into the habit of doing.
1. There’s a sense of tradition about it.
Sure, it’s the stuff of ‘days gone by,’ but it’s something that feels traditional… in a good way. Despite stamps becoming increasingly pricey, I have never had an issue spending that little bit extra on sending a letter as opposed to just a quick and free email.
Though both the frequency and necessity of letter writing has decreased drastically, the very act of setting some time aside to reach out people I care about with pen on paper feels like I’m doing a little bit extra.
2. You’ve been capturing events, rather than living them.
In a generation that focuses more on recording the ‘memories’ that we’re making instead of truly living in the moment, we need to find ways to genuinely enjoy living as opposed to thinking about taking the best pictures to get the most Instagram likes.
One of the biggest examples that I myself am so guilty of is using my phone at concerts to record performances and watching the stage through my screen. I then re-live the experience through images and videos of the event and not so much through the firsthand occurrence. We miss a whole lot by doing this, but I justify it often by telling myself that the memories of those nights will fade or alter overtime, while the recording will remain the same.
It’s not that this kind of mentality is wrong, but we can preserve our memories in other ways while still fully immersing ourselves in the things we are experiencing. With my aforementioned cousin, I often find myself taking less photos and then writing to her about it all within a few days, while it’s all still fresh in my mind. If I ever wanted to remember how I felt and what I loved most about these events (as opposed to just seeing them in the images I recorded), I can always ask her to show me the old letters I sent her. That, to me, evokes more of a memory than simply watching videos or seeing a photo posted on social media with however many generated likes.
3. You can reflect on anything, really.
Writing letters can be better than writing in a journal mostly because you feel like it has purpose, which is to be read by someone. It’s not just events that you’ve been to that you can reflect on, but also your outlooks and particular mindsets on things at the time in your life when you wrote those letters.
In this case, it can be a little bit selfish, too. I find that for myself, writing about the way I perceive my current experiences helps me sort it all out in my head and figure out where I really stand on something. When there is regular correspondence, you’re often probed on questions you might not otherwise consider, especially in regard to overlooked details.
Again, these are things that you can deliberate over in the future, when your perspectives shift with time passing.
4. It’s personal.
One thing I love about handwritten letters is that I always know whom the letter is from before I even open it – seeing my name and address on the front of the envelope in a script that is distinctly belonging to the sender. Handwriting is someone’s voice on paper; each person’s lettering is unique to him or her in some way, and just like how I could distinguish their voices in a crowd, so too could I pick out their handwriting in a pile of letters. Because of the personal nature of letters, it feels like someone has actually taken time out of their day just for you. It feels conversational and it feels sincere.
5. It allows you to be present in any and all relationships.
Just as I mentioned that handwriting letters is personal, it also extends beyond that. It makes you feel like the sender is present.
It’s not just a matter of writing sappy love notes to your significant other (although I think that’s totally adorable), but about reaching out to all the people who are significant in your life. This is especially true for those you do not so often see.
Sending letters has become an integral part of my relationship with my cousin, who I send the most letters to. Living six hours away from each other, we’ve managed to stay incredibly close despite the distance. With each letter sent, I feel like I have connected with her on all the happenings of my life and with each letter received, I feel that she has filled me in on hers. These letters are memories that we are preserving for each other and ones that we can look back on in the years to come as unspoiled memories of our lives.
In this age of electronic communication, we need to make the effort to unplug and reach out in a more personal way.