The renaissance of snail mail

Alex Nye

Handwritten letters. To you it may seem outdated with all of the smartphone notifications, emails and status updates. With our society feeding off of instant gratification and impatience, letters seem archaic.Let’s be honest though, modern technology can’t touch the art of writing letters.

The pen that you hold in your hand touches the paper, the ink bleeding into the fibers. Your fingers touch the paper and your saliva seals the envelope. The same envelope you licked will be touched by the recipient.

Their hands will touch the paper you carefully folded and they will gently run their fingers across every word you have written down.When is the last time you can say that about an email you have sent? The harsh glare of the screen blinding your eyesight as you write a hollowed and rushed email to a friend, a loved one.

Letters require attention. We never see them again once we send them out. So we hover over each sentence, ensuring our word choices are perfect.In an email, you can go to the outbox and reflect on what has been sent. Once a letter is sealed, the writer no longer has ownership; it now belongs to the recipient. A magic that writing an email or text does not have.

Pat Finkbeiner, my girlfriend’s grandmother, fondly recalled writing letters to her husband Cory while he was on active duty in the Army National Guard in 1962.

“I wrote to Cory every day for six months while he was away,” said Finkbeiner, 70. “He knew that I cared enough about him to sit down every night and write him a letter.”

Cory also would write as often as he could to Pat and she said this made her feel valued because he did not have as much time to writeSadly, Pat no longer has the letters they exchanged but recently inherited her own parents’ letters they wrote to one another. She said they brought much joy into her life.

“At least I’ve got those letters,” Finkbeiner said. “They are priceless and bring back so many memories of my parents that I had forgotten.”When was the last time you wrote a letter, a thank you note? Weeks, years?

When was the last time you sent a text or email? Minutes, hours?

I have written many letters in the past year. I can’t begin to count them. The pile my girlfriend keeps from me overflows the top of her bookshelf. It is something tangible that she can hold onto.

Sure, I have also sent out hundreds of texts and emails, but those aren’t as noticeable and I hardly ever think about the recipient when writing them.Nor can I physically see my emails outside of a computer screen. As soon as I send a text, I forget about it.

Some may argue that sending a text is not intimidating like letter writing is. I will agree that our generation has grown accustomed to the form of digital messaging. Writing letters does not have to be intimidating if you follow one basic rule: write how you talk.Your recipient wants to hear from you, so write as you are talking to the person. Pay attention to how you write your salutation and closing to a letter, because it can help define your relationship with the recipient.

“It is sad in a way,” Finkbeiner said. “The youth today have lost an important skill set. A lot of students no longer are taught cursive or handwriting and feel too busy to write a letter.”

With the increase of knowledge in technology, students are more prone to learning how to type and use word processor, and handwriting has become more or less an ancient practice.

“People are in such a hurry now a days,” Finkbeiner said. “With a text or email, they take the easy and quick way out.”Emily Stulz, 22, a higher education graduate student, said she knows the uncertainty of relationships and texts all too well. When she receives a text from a guy she just met that says, “want to hang out,” she is unsure if it will be a strictly ‘friends’ hang out or if they are looking for more.

“If you are writing a letter, you get to have real thoughts,” Stulz said. “In a text you pop off 140 characters. It is a shallow form of communication.”

With writing letters, it can help define your relationship with another person. If you close your letter with a “love” or a “forever yours,” the message becomes quite apparent.I still appreciate the craft of writing letters by hand. I can’t wait to have children someday to show them the letters I wrote to their beautiful mother.

You can take your tablet, give your children your email username and password and let them see the emails you used to make your significant other swoon.I would rather dust off an old shoe box from the back of a closet and let my children dig through a mound of letters full of personal memories and history.