Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 7, 2016

Old-fashioned letter writing is becoming a lost art

By Steph Tahtinen

By STEPH TAHTINEN

Mt. Pleasant News

Modern communication is wonderful. I was thinking about this the other day when I was Skyping with my best friend, Megan.

For those of you unfamiliar with Skype, it’s a program that allows you to have video chats using your computer and a webcam. You call the other person much like you would on a telephone.

Megan and I try to have a Skype date at least once a week. She works second shift, so I’ll text her when I leave for lunch and let her know that I’m on my way home. We’ll both quickly grab something to eat and then have a lunch date via our web cams.

Megan lives back home in Wisconsin, and it’s a great way to stay in contact and actually see each other, rather than just hearing each other over the phone or reading what the other has written on Facebook, a text or an email. It makes the six-and-a-half hour distance between us not seem so far.

Today’s technology makes it even easier to stay in contact with friends and family who live far away. Communication is frequent and almost instantaneous. Yet, I wonder if, for the sake of convenience, we’re losing out on something.

I was reading a book set in the late 1800s the other day. The daughter had wagon trained to the West, and the only contact between the girl and the family she left back home were occasional long letters that took some time to arrive. The arrival of a new letter was a major event for the family. They treasured these letters as a little piece of the person who had written them. The sender and the recipient were connected through the paper and ink held in their hands.

We don’t have this same experience today. Emails and text messages come so easily and frequently that we don’t value them as much. I know that I’ll often delete them when I don’t need them anymore to keep my inbox from overflowing. There’s no shoebox in my closet that I keep them in.

I remember when I was younger I would get so excited when I’d get something in the mail. My older cousin was a frequent correspondent, as was my grandpa. I still have all these letters in a box at my parents’ house, I believe.

I used to divide the letters by year in big manila envelopes. The older envelopes are stuffed to maximum capacity, but as time went on I began combining years, putting two or three years’ worth of letters into one envelope. Eventually there wasn’t even enough mail to make it worthwhile, and now I just throw the occasional letters and cards I receive into a small box in my closet.

Every once and awhile I write a letter to my family and vice versa. There’s nothing more exciting than opening up my mailbox and seeing a note from a loved one. However, I’ll admit that sometimes these letters feel pointless. I usually end up talking to the person before the letter is received.

My sister, for one, seems to have a sixth sense of when I’m writing down her address. It seems that whenever I take the time to write her a lengthy letter, she will call me almost as soon as I lick the envelope. The contents of the letter are usually covered in our conversation, making the letter superfluous.

Yet, even as I find myself immersed in 21st century communication, I’m nostalgic for the tradition of letter writing. I think that tonight I’m going to go home, take out some stationary and a pen and write a good old-fashioned letter. I just need to decide to whom.