An Empty Mailbox

Love letters were a focus this past week for our FYS class, and it was a nice ending to our primary sources unit in the class before we moved onto a bigger project. Our main focus was on the couple Bessie and Chris, who were both working during WWII and constantly wrote each other during the war. Many of their letters were very humorous and surprisingly human. My initial thoughts and opinions before the letters were that they were going to be much more formal and less crude at times. I wasn’t at all for them to be so vulnerable and raw with emotion, given the times and the possibility that these letters could’ve been intercepted. However, I guess love isn’t a thing to be shy about with these two.

This led to a conversation about a TedTalk covering the importance of letter writing. It introduced the class to a program called More Love Letters, an organization set up to support people going through hardships by sending them bulks of letters from strangers. Today, the site still gets many volunteers and requests from various people, and it seems to be an overall success. I am tempted myself to request letters for a friend, or maybe I’ll just write her myself.

With these past discussions of letters and traditional media, I wonder how the world will go on to function and evolve with the rise of quick messaging and electronic mail. Will the world be less compassionate or personal if skills like writing on paper are taken away? I do recall a study saying that students do much better in class when they write their notes by hand, but does this translate to other factors too?

I haven’t seen any scientific data on this so far, but I do wonder at times the effects on people. Since sending and receiving messages became so quickly, it leaves less room for digesting and thoughtful thinking with word choice and placement. Thus, spelling mistakes and typos are tolerated more and become more frequent and normalized, both in texts and eventually writing. In addition to this, having something physical in one’s hand is often cherished more than an electronic and easily recovered text.

While one has to be patient for their letter and eventually come to cherish it once it arrives, electronic mail is unlikely to have that effect since messages are so immediate. In my opinion, it has gotten to a point where they are unconsciously typed out and sent off, usually without a second thought. The idea that one could wait so long by their phone waiting for a text when they could be doing anything in their spare time is scary. Instead of being patient, it’s almost as if a person is holding on by a thread to hear back from the other. If they don’t receive that text soon, it spirals into so many thoughts and theories as the person starts making up how many worries or excuses for the person they wait on.

I don’t think that letter writing will ever truly die out however. Even now, there are services where people can order letters from specific characters or universes they want. The culture of pen paling has taken off thanks to social media influencers, and vintage fashion and artifact enthusiasts like to enjoy and keep the art of the pen alive. However, the idea that letter writing won’t be encouraged is a shame in my opinion. If it doesn’t spark many people’s interest, a letter is just nice to have anyway to know that someone cares and to have that physical reminder.

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