You can’t deny that a hand-written letter addressed to you has a deeply personal touch that you just don’t get with an email or a text. Someone took the time to sit down and write on a page what they wanted to say to you as opposed to a quick succession of key pad tapping on a keyboard or phone. Messages sent using modern technology are so impersonal but a handwritten letter shows all the emotion and personality of the author. If the letter is scrunched up you know they were angry, if it’s folded at a perfect 90 degree angle you know they want to impress you. You can see coffee rings, tear stains, ink blobs, finger smudges and it’s true that these all help us to realise that written communication is between people, not devices.
Granted, a letter takes a lot longer to write and be received. You could write a text in 30 seconds, in fact the fastest time taken to write a text of 160 characters was 25.94 seconds. Yet which would you rather, a short message written while the author was doing a million and one other things and spent all of two seconds pondering about what to write, or a well-written letter in which the author thought about what they were writing and spent a significantly longer amount of time doing so? I know which one I’d prefer.
Is it really necessary for us to always want to send messages fast, and receive a reply even faster? No, it’s not. Letter-writing encourages a very positive attributes that everyone would like to have, patience. The patience involved in writing the letter itself, and in waiting to receive a letter are much more useful than Facebook telling you your friend ‘is typing’, so that you can sit restlessly waiting for their reply.
The one time of the year when letter-writing regains some popularity is at Christmas, in the form of Christmas cards. You could say that the generic Christmas wishes written on Christmas are the closest thing to a letter that most of us write nowadays. Is it any wonder that the most personal form of expressing holiday joy is the most popular? Come on, you have to agree that a Christmas email just wouldn’t have the same effect of a hand-written card.
But one thing that sets a letter apart from everything else is that it’s physically there. It’s in your hands. You can turn it and twist it and rip it up and stick it back together again. As Liz Carpenter correctly pointed out ‘What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can't reread a phone call.’ You can see an email on screen, and even if you do print it out, it’s not the same. The sense that it was written by someone for you is somewhat lost in the sea of Times New Roman. No font can match an indecipherable scrawl and no printer paper can substitute for pink love-hearted letter writing paper.
So, why not remove ourselves from behind the screens of devices and place ourselves behind a pen and paper. It’s a much more meaningful form of communication from which we can learn something, and really does deserve a place in modern living, before it dies out altogether.