You think your name is weird? My name is a whole sentence, with a punctuation mark and all. But none of my friends found it weird, because theirs are even worse. I believe my friend “I Like Nuggets” and I can both agree that there is no shame in having an unusual name, because in this world, there is no prejudice. In fact, our account avatars, usernames, and biographies are the epitomes of our truest selves, because anonymity is what allows us to be honest. To virtual strangers, it’s more than easy to reveal our deepest secrets, peculiar hobbies, and unpopular opinions that we desire to keep hidden in front of friends and family.
“Do You Feel the Same?”- that’s my penpal name I‘ve used on various penpal websites. As cheesy as it sounds, I’ve stuck with this in admiration of finding commonalities with the most random strangers across the globe. Crossing mountains and seas in the comforts of my bed, my penpals and I exchanged cultures, languages, and interests, all through pen-palling. Before realizing it, we became closer than the distance that spread us apart.
Aside from myself, I found various people on multiple penpal platforms who also found the pen-palling a worthwhile experience. ‘Elvis fan’, a man in his late fifties from Ireland, commented that his newly-acquired penpals “made a big difference” in his life. He enjoyed getting to meet “similar people who were genuinely interested in friendship.” ‘Sunflower14’, a seventy year old woman located in Turkey, called herself “lucky” because she made many friends despite “having a difficult personality.” She wrote, “I always struggled to talk to people. But online, I felt braver. I couldn‘t have made friends during the Coronavirus pandemic if it weren’t for pen-palling.”
During quarantine, it was inevitable that communication became restricted. However, the internet proves its worth by connecting thousands, if not millions of people, through pen-palling. Whether you physically send penpal mail or use the internet to write electronic letters, there are many opportunities that people of all ages, genders, race, and religions can engage in to combat the isolating nature of the pandemic. “Simpleliving,” a young Indonesian student stuck inside her house, quotes that “because of the pandemic, I was able to travel through the eyes of my new found friends, which was extremely exciting.”
These virtual friendships may not just create new and meaningful relationships, but also wonderful memories that can remind us that there are silver linings in even the darkest clouds. Pen-palling is a valuable gateway for people to learn, share, console, and connect with others. Just beyond our physical grasp, there is a whole new world waiting for people like you and I.
So what do you think, do you feel the same?
Allison Hwang, Grade 12,
West Ranch High School