Growing up in an age where mails come in the form of lines on a screen and messages are written in clear font and uniform text sizes has nothing been short of convenient. The electronic messaging service has proven to be fast and highly reliable too, where we can gain access to our mail anytime, anywhere. Truly, technology has revolutionized the way we send and receive mail with the power of clicks, taps, and swipes. But, technology has also, unfortunately, snitched us of the inexplicable bliss and excitement that handwritten letters are able to elicit within us.
Gone now are the days of pretty stationary and colored pens. Gone are the days of trying to perfectly fit a folded letter into an envelope and sticking stamps. Gone are the days of enclosing a couple of photos in the letter, so the recipient can better visualize our stories. Gone are the days of deciphering bad handwriting in the most challenging and amusing way. And gone are the days when letters brought a certain trace of personal touch – a slant handwriting, big curves at the ends of the letter Y, long tails for the letter F, text lines slanting downwards due to the lack of guiding lines on the stationary, scribbles at the sides of the letter, colorful stickers, signatures, ink blots, crossed-out words, mini sketches.
Letters used to reflect personality, effort, and creativity. The handwritten aspect of it is somehow able to deliver both the messages and the emotions the way the sender intends to deliver to the recipient/reader. You can feel the joy, the sorrow, the excitement, the hopefulness, the optimism, the pessimism associated with the stories being narrated in the letter, with every word that is on the note. The receiver is somehow able to take a glimpse of the personality of the sender and how he/she is feeling at the moment of writing. People who are in bliss are able to write neatly and with beautiful script that the letter is able to convey his/her inspired state while people who are downhearted write less creatively, sending a rather dark mood. Where the emotions of yesteryear’s letters are shown in the writing style and the presence of handcrafted art (e.g., sticker art, drawings), today’s e-messages only have mainstream emoticons to express the sender’s feelings. Where handwritten letters are characterized by an individual’s personality, electronic mails are merely static in nature. Creativity has somehow disappeared through the years with the rise of universally acknowledged emotional symbols and universally used fonts.
Where we are once overwhelmed by a deep sense of connection, we now feel merely in touch with other people in the sense that we know that we are able to stay in contact with our friends but is seemingly insufficient that we need to constantly see them personally in order to satisfy and strengthen the relationship. Handwritten letters give a sense of getting to know, of making the receiver feel extra special, of making the receiver want to keep them because of its nature (that the sender spent time to write and decorate it), of emotionally bridging the gap between the sender and the receiver who are in two very different places, of giving the recipient something physical to remember the sender by – which electronic messages lack. Letters today have now been reduced to merely means of communication. Sadly.
But, just because the tradition has seemingly died doesn’t mean we can’t bring it back. One of these days, send out a handwritten letter to a good friend. I’m sure that they’ll get surprised by your act, but what will surprise them even more is the incomprehensible joy that they will find themselves drowning in once they receive and read your letter. They will be surprised at how a simple thing, such as receiving a handwritten note, can draw out a sense of delight in them – something that they’ve never realized that they were capable of feeling over a simple letter. At the same time, you will be surprised at how writing a letter by hand can naturally make you smile, knowing that you are sharing a piece of yourself both in content and in style and doing something different yet beautiful in this modern era.
So, take a step back in time and relive an old tradition. Revive something that has been forgotten. Breathe life into what has been considered dead for quite a while. Connect – really connect – with friends. Let yourself fall vulnerable through your handwriting. Find your inner artist and make that handwritten letter as special as you can by adding hints of your personal style and creativity. Inspire your friends – your recipients – to do the same at least once. Break away from this age of electronic everything for a moment, and enjoy old-school forms of communication. It’s fun, you just gotta try it.
Or, you can always skip the stationary and send a postcard instead. With postcards, there’s always that additional excitement because your letter comes with a breathtaking picture. Let your friends know where you’re at and what you’re up to in a foreign land. Tell them about the place and how your experience is in there. They’ll be more than glad to know that you’re not just eating ice cream in your hotel room. Uploading your photos on Facebook for your friends to see is one thing, but sending them an actual, physical photo of the place you’re in, with a personal message on it, is more fun and interesting. Receiving a postcard makes the recipient feel like he/she is exploring the place with you as he/she reads your message. It makes him/her feel that you want him/her to see and feel the place the same way as you do. And I know that because that’s how I felt when a friend of mine who’s in France for graduate school sent me one a few days ago.
It’s a nice thing to send a postcard, but more than that, it’s something extraordinary that you can do in this age of many extraordinary things made ordinary by electronic means. It’s one small moment that makes you feel more alive, more connected with your friends and with the world, and more genuinely expressive of your experiences and of your stories. So, next time you’re in Germany or in Italy or in Malaysia or somewhere else in the world, take the opportunity to grab a pretty postcard, scribble a short message for a friend living back home, and send it over. Your friend will appreciate it, more than he or she will ever know. And you will enjoy it, more than you’ll ever know. These days, there is nothing like sending out a good, old-fashioned mail, or receiving one.