I slipped my glasses on this evening, and then clicked my way into Facebook. It’s just one of those things I do a few times a day to feed my addiction to my current casual social contact tool.
There was a short two line message from a friend on there.
A friend of mine, that is part of a small activism group I am part of, received a typed letter from me last friday. I guess she held it off till later in the weekend to read it, and afterwards left a little message to me in reply.
“I was in tears after I read your letter” She wrote. She also spoke about how it reminder her about how her grandfather used to write to her with his typewriter in much the same way. He was a political activist and social-worker in New Zealand.
Every letter I have written so far seems to have had a small but powerful effect. I haven’t received many letters in reply, but I have had quite a few social network reply notes and postings.
The art of the letter – in the mail – isn’t lost. Even when letters were commonplace they were still powerful things to receive when they were personal. As was highlighted by my friends response.
The letters from their grandfather, written back some time ago were treasured just as much back then. If they weren’t, the letter from me wouldn’t have had such an impact on her. Emails today don’t have the same effect. Email has changed the way that we use writing to communicate, as has SMS pushed that even further.
Email and SMS’s easy access has allowed us to communicate faster than ever before. However there is no intimacy in SMS, and Email has become more function than form. The intimacy has fallen from a communication form that has become limited to emails along the lines of “RE: Issue with water-release device” and “Attached: colour swatch ideas for new kitchen paint”.
Because of how these Emails have become so… mundane and functional, a written letter can be so much more. Particularly when every day we still receive in the mail that has been created on a computer, with out name and address ‘mail merged’ in.
Even when the Emails are personal, there’s no surprise, and no passion. And we have largely lost the ability to use this communication to do so. Further more we use Facebook and suchlike pages to compensate. As such we see an almost endless stream of our lives thrown up for all to see. But although our lives have been recorded ‘in the moment’ and replayed for social value, the connections between the people on these pages are lost as there is little, and token interaction with the audience.
My letter had nothing breathtaking or unexpected in it, but was of me, and about me. And that always seems to matter.