Pritha Banerjee explores how letters can create a connection that modern forms of communication will never approach, as World Letter Writing Day (September 1) approaches
In the days of WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook, writing letters may seem hopelessly outdated. However, letter writing can be an art that is worth bringing back, and that is not because of some misplaced sense of nostalgia. Writing and receiving letters can offer an experience that modern technologies fail to imbibe. Facebook or Instagram can be effective for broadcasting when you are at an event, while email can be fantastic for quick exchanges on the most pertinent pieces of information, but true thoughts, sincere sympathies, ardent love, and deepest gratitude cannot be shared by words travelling along an invisible superhighway. And, why is that so?
It is because sending a letter is the next best thing to showing up personally at someone’s door. The ink from your pen that touches the stationery, and your fingers touching the paper… it is something tangible from your world that travels and deposits itself in another’s mailbox. It is then carried inside as an invited guest. The paper that was sitting on your desk now sits on another’s.
Neuroscience has proven that writing can strengthen your cognitive skills. “When you write something down, it requires deep thought, building more than 10,000 new neural pathways in your brain in one sitting; whereas writing on a computer appears to build only 600 new pathways,” claims Archana Sharma, a clinical psychologist.
Snail mail and pen pals
Now that the confusion of why to write a letter is solved, the next question arises – who should you write letters to? Your grandparents can be a good start. Come on, if they can learn how to send a text for you even you can write a letter every now and then. That will make them happy and you know it. Some feel the need to have a pen pal who is different from their familiar settings and daily routine. “I love sending letters/ postcards to pen pals because it gives me the opportunity to connect and meet someone I may not have ever met otherwise. I started by writing to family members. It seems more personal than a text because of the amount of effort and thought that goes into each letter,” says 22-year-old Rhitik Bhatt.
There are various websites like Penpalworld, Interpals, and Students of the World, depending on what or how you want to correspond with your pen pal. Reddit gives you the best ways to find pen pals as well. Depending on what you want to send, postcards or snail mail, there are communities.
If nothing works out, write a letter to yourself. Nothing is quite as emotional as receiving a letter from yourself. It can remind you of the sweet memories of the past. Write it and hide it somewhere. Then, set a reminder on a digital calendar and have it notify you.
Posts beyond the sea
“Random Acts of Cards is a subreddit (a category within the Reddit website) for anyone who likes to give or receive a card for any reason. They may be birthday cards, sympathy, support, a special surprise, a get well soon, or something silly or anything you can think of,” says the moderator of the subreddit. The purpose of Random Acts of Cards is to spread a little bit of joy around the world. “Every single postcard that I send, I know I could put a smile and happiness to them,” says littlemissCHARMS, the subreddit user from the Philippines.
“I like the simplicity of a postcard, an image that grabs your attention and a message that conveys what I might have been contemplating at the time of writing the postcard. I always doodle on the card, write about songs that I am listening to or write a quote that I came across. The whole process is short and simple but it can still show a glimpse of me,” admits Divya, another user from Hyderabad.
Post crossing is a postcard exchange project that invites everyone to send and receive postcards from random places in the world. Another interesting initiative is the snail mail project by Sumedha Sah, an architect by profession and a self-taught artist from Mumbai. In an open invitation on her website (sumedhasah.com), she invites people to write letters to her; in response, she would draw them an original illustration accompanied by a handwritten note.
So, what are you waiting for? Write something that is deeper and more meaningful than a boring old email. Won’t it be exciting to receive a letter that isn’t a bill, for a change?