Don't let traditional letter writing die

Last week, I wrote a friend of mine a letter.

This is not a normal practice for me, but he had done the same for me upon his graduation from this university. While it was a little late, I still felt the need to reciprocate.

It felt great.

I did not email or Facebook message my letter. The fact is that I did not even use electronics in the process at all. I created this document the old-fashioned way.

I sat down with my pen and my pad of paper, and I began writing. The words began to flow from my mind into my pen, and appeared in cursive print on a previously blank page. The letter ended up being three pages long.

There was something that felt especially good about communicating in this way, especially when I stuffed the letter into an envelope, stamped and sealed it, addressed it and dropped it into the mailbox.

It felt more personal and it seemed to come more naturally. The thoughts just seemed to flow, and I needed very little time to stop and think about what I wanted to say. There were a few scribbles, but I liked what I had when the process was over.

It makes me wonder if we miss something in doing everything using electronics. That is not to say that email, Facebook and the rest are not important or useful, but that we may get a little too wrapped up in it for our own good.

The fact is that when you use pen to put something on paper, it will remain on that paper for the rest of its existence. Even if you use whiteout, or if you scribble it out, it will remain on the page.

This permanence is probably a good thing. Many studies have shown that people are more likely to remember something if they know they will not have access to the information again. I am sure that knowing you won’t be able to make edits could do something to help you think about it before you say it.

It allows us to be more thoughtful with our words, much in the same way that saying something to a person’s face influences us to be more considerate of the other person. And it is a process that helps you to reflect on the subject you are writing about, with the only thing to observe being the words on the page in front of you.

Other advantages to electronic communication are that it cuts down on distractions and takes less of your energy. It has been shown that staring at screens for long periods can reduce your energy level, among other things, and that it is much easier to be distracted when using electronic devices.

In certain circumstances, it may even help show how much you care, or how important the subject is to you. The fact that you put in a little more effort to actually write the letter might mean a lot to the receiver.

Humans communicated this way for centuries. Cicero, the apostles, medieval kings and queens and our own founding fathers shared their thoughts and ideas using this process.

I would recommend writing a good letter every once and awhile. It is good for you.


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