The Act of Writing a Letter

by perpetualflaneur


In the age of heightened communication and technology, primary modes of communication like Twitter, Facebook, Voxer, and Skype and devices such as smartphones and tablets have made contacting people more accessible and have even enabled us to express ourselves in different mediums. We literally communicate with our fingers; with the push of various buttons, we instantly send and receive messages from all over the world. Wherever we are, whatever it is that we may be thinking about, we can easily share it with people. But all of these do not necessarily equate to sincerity, appreciation, and thoughtfulness in my communication handbook.

Nevertheless, modern communication and technology has definitely reshaped the way we understood time and space. The crux of it all, in a period where physical distance technically no longer becomes an issue when it comes to keeping in touch, is the convenience these all bring in communicating and in rekindling relationships. Now, my question then is this: given this context, are handwritten letters and notes irrelevant, obsolete even, nowadays? Of course, I’ve come to pose this question with an answer already in mind.

A few days ago, my brother told me that I had received a small packet from a friend who lives overseas. Because I am also away from home, I asked my sister via Facetime and Imessage (compliments of modern innovations) to open the package and to show me the contents, particularly the card that my friend never fails to include. As I was reading her handwritten message, the manner and tone of her writing resembled how she would have addressed me back then when we were in our dorm rooms in college, passionately engaged in a colorful conversation about life and the many lives we had lived throughout the day. It was as if we were simply continuing how we were, regardless of how far we are from each other. Of course, the fact that I received this from a friend is a testament to our friendship, to our fondness and appreciation of one another. No doubt about that! But what was most important is that instead of simply writing something via email or Facebook, which she could have done, she had taken some time off from her busy day to write to me. That alone made me appreciate what she had written and done more. Perhaps, it is also the element of surprise of receiving a package and a letter that also made it extra special for me.

Now, as a response to my question, my answer is a resounding no. This shouldn’t be a surprise because the very act of writing a letter, of writing down the date and time when the letter is written, of carefully (or carelessly due to excitement) folding the flaps of the envelope, of sealing the packet, and of copying the address, are all  forms of affection and appreciation. In a sense, you are removing yourself from what is convenient for you and exerting an effort to do what is most thoughtful for your friend; you are doing this for the person you care for. Instead of taking the easy route, with the use of social media and cellphones, here you are, on your way to the post office to drop of your letter to a friend.

On certain occasions, there is something more personal in sending a letter to your friend’s home than simply “tweeting” or “texting”. It’s one in which no matter how hectic your life may be, you still find the time to assemble a delightful surprise. It’s also because our lives are saturated with these technologies that we take communication and communicating for granted; we think that because we are all in the same social mediaverse, thus, supposedly can communicate with each other more, that alone will suffice. But in reality, there is a danger to this mentality of accessibility. Just because we think they are “just there”, we take for granted the time and space between us, slowly forgetting that your friend is not just a name or a follower, but a person that you care about and that you want in your life.

It is important to understand that it’s not about the aesthetics of writing a letter or the little tokens of friendship that come with it but both the sincerity and the effort in sending a heartfelt and well-crafted letter that touch the hearts of those who are to receive them. So, the next time that an opportunity to write a letter to someone arises, a special occasion or simply an urge to simply communicate, do not think twice in doing so, for whoever will receive this letter will feel the same warmth, if not more, that enabled your relationship in the first place.