When was the last time you sent a handwritten letter? Perhaps it was last Christmas, when you did Secret Santa. Or, maybe it was on your grandmother’s birthday, and your parents made you send one. Let me ask you another question: how often do you write letters?
“The last time I wrote a letter was a few weeks ago,” said Christy Yoon, an eighth grader at Hopkins Junior High School, in an interview with JSR. “I only write letters on special occasions, like birthdays.”
Since the past decade, communication trends have changed significantly. According to the U.S. Postal Office, there has been a 21% decrease in the number of letters mailed per year, from 2007 (212 billion) to 2013 (158 billion). Although 158 billion letters annually sounds like a huge number, considering the fact that 6 billion texts messages are sent in the U.S. daily, it is actually a relatively small amount.
Thanks to high-tech gadgets like cellphones and computers, communication has become faster. Within a few seconds, we can send pictures with creative captions to our friends while on vacation. Miss someone? No problem — just take out your phone and dial his or her number. Likewise, communicating has become more convenient — we can exchange feelings and thoughts instantly. So why should we consider the option of letter writing?
The texting process happens so quickly that we do not have to give it much thought.
We can type a few words plus an emoji or two and reach our friends who live hundreds or thousands of miles away — all in a matter of seconds. On the other hand, letter writing conveys sincerity. The carefully written product reflects how much the sender was thinking about the receiver.
“I think the difference is that text messages are usually impulsive, and get the basic point across,” says Zion Chang, a senior in Milpitas High School, in an interview with JSR. “Letters are definitely more heartfelt because it is not like I would get out a pen and paper, write ‘okay, what are you doing?’, seal the letter and mail it to the deliver. I guess handwritten letters messages show more thought and care compared to instant messages.”
Letters often require thoughtful, thorough planning. A characteristic that differentiates letters and text messages is the use of penmanship; its uniqueness makes it seem as if the writer is truly speaking to the receiver. Unlike standardized and sterile digital fonts, handwriting is personalized, physically embodying the mind of the writer.
Handwritten letters are something we can cherish forever, for it captures history, allowing us to reminisce on the past with the same emotions. They are evidence of time and traces of joy, sadness, and laughter. Instead of a simple birthday post on social media, how about a writing a whole-hearted letter? The tangible white paper, of smudged pencil marks and eraser marks, will tell the receiver: “I care about you.”