Opinion: The importance of letter writing in a digital world

By Erin Bothwell | October 28, 2016 4:14pm

Our world thrives on communication, but choosing a medium to sincerely communicate with someone else, beyond the usual “how is life/school/work?” is difficult. Texting is fast and informal. Scheduling time to video chat is a hassle and phone calls face the same problem. Email is synonymous with work. The solution is obvious: write letters.

A letter is a lot more than a phone call or a text. It’s a prolonged conversation illustrated with hand drawn graphics, occasionally seasoned with tears. A letter can be funny, moving or sincere.

Write to store managers with complaints and compliments. Write to people you admire (musicians, politicians or activists). You’ll be surprised at the responses you’ll receive.

Write letters when you’re angry, and don’t send them. If you have a slightly morbid sense of humor, as I do, you will save your hate mail in hopes that, if you die prematurely, the person rifling through your stuff will find your ranting letters and send them to people you wrote to. Nothing like sweet, deceased revenge. Like a reversal of the plot of “P.S. I Love You” (minus Gerard Butler) featuring a vengeful Hilary Swank.

Write because you realize you get little joy out of checking your mail as bills and ads fill your mailbox. Write letters because your high school friends are off at different colleges and you rarely see them. Write because you know soon your college friends will be off conquering the world and you want to keep in touch. Write because everyone grows older and moves in other directions, and sustaining a relationship with any sort of distance requires reaching out to others.

Write because forever stamps (that’s right, stamps that will last forever or at least until the apocalypse) cost 47 cents right now. With a pen, a piece of paper, an envelope and a forever stamp, you can make someone’s day.

I wrote a letter when my best friend lost her father in July. She misses him every day. Her dad made everyone around him smile. To use the past tense to refer to him still stings. At the time of his passing, I didn’t know what to say to her. So I wrote to her. I wrote to her about things I can’t recall with perfect detail, but it doesn’t matter. She knows what I wrote. She read the letter.