“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”
“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.”
“What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp.”
In 2010 the typical home received a personal letter about every seven weeks, according to the annual survey done by the United States Postal Services—that does not include greeting cards invitations. Way back in 1987 it was once every two weeks. The onslaught of advertisements still arrives with all the magazines and catalogs—but it seems that personal letters are a thing of the past. The times have changed.
I used to be a fairly prolific letter writer—usually writing up to ten to fifteen letters and notes a week. Once a week I would sit down with a list of names of people I wanted to write and crank those personal missives out like clockwork. And, typically, I received one or two personal letters a week in response. It was a labor of love and a lot of work . . . but people appreciated the effort and the connection. I didn’t mind spending a couple of hours a week writing letters . . .
. . . but then something changed. I discovered the computer for my letter writing. No longer was I hand writing each letter—which often repeated the same information—and cut my letter writing time in half. The only handwritten part of the letter was where I signed my name. Now the letters were actually readable! No one complained and I still received a letter in response about every two weeks.
It wasn’t long after I started doing this that computers became cheaper and more practical—more and more of the people I wrote suddenly had computers with Internet access. They had email addresses. It was not too tough of a transition to go from writing personal letters to writing personal emails. This took even less time than composing a letter, printing it, and mailing it. Took less time and those receiving the correspondence were practically getting the emails in seconds instead of days. It was practically instantaneous! Plus I was saving money as I was no longer spending it for postage. Killing time and saving money!
Though I am saving time and money, it is not the same. This age of instant communication—email, text messaging, Twitter, Skype, and more—has taken something away in the way that we communicate today. It just does not seem as personal as it used to be. Gone are the days of the old love letters, the historical adventures of a loved one’s journeys, and the insights of life. Gone is the personal connection. I just cannot picture my future grandchildren sitting in the still quietness of their bedrooms reading emails from their lovers—gone will be the love letters laced with perfume and tenderness. Gone will be the anticipation of receiving that special correspondence from a loved one far away.
In our age of needing instant gratification the computer and Internet do more than admirably—communication is instantaneous in the flash of a keystroke. In the blink of an eye it is done. Even though I appreciate the quickness and efficiency of today’s modes of communication it is just not the same. I guess I am showing my age with that statement, confessing my awkwardness of being in that generation stuck between today and yesterday, but I miss getting those handwritten letters.
I appreciate receiving any communication—except maybe for the phone. Being an introvert I still find the phone to be an intrusion into my personal world. Though the majority of the correspondence I do now is done through email, Facebook, and text messages, I still write an occasional handwritten letter—mostly to those who are over the age of 70 years old. They are always appreciated—or so they tell me when they write back. It is like receiving a hug in the mail—the connection received and completed. An effort acknowledged.
Yep, none of us ever write any more. The personal letter is probably a thing of the past, and in this digital age we still have somewhat of a semblance of it through email. But, it is just not the same. As one person said, it is hard to imagine poet Robert Browning imploring Elisabeth Barrett to be his BBF. LOL!