Most of my written communication these days is by email or quick text messages. In the past my family had a history of being keen letter writers. I still exchange letters with a couple of my cousins and I love to receive a letter in the post .
Email is great. It is so quick and I can attach photos. When I send emails, even those to relatives overseas they are received almost immediately. It is easy to send an email. I don’t have to check my address book for the current address, find an envelope and address it and then put a stamp on it. I don’t have to put the addressed envelope in my bag so I remember to post it next time I go down the street. (I have been known to get home from the street to find I didn’t post the letter even though it was in my bag.)
Another advantage of an email is I can write a couple of sentences and that’s enough. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have enough news to fill a page or two. I can send dozens of emails and I don’t have to pay each time. There is no rummaging through drawers looking for a stamp. Yes, I find email very convenient.
It makes my day to receive a real letter. There is something special about holding the pages of a letter knowing the writer has also touched that very same paper.. My Mum and I exchanged letters on a regular basis when we lived a long way apart. When I left home to go to university Mum often included a one dollar or two dollar note. You can’t do that with an email. She would use green or yellow envelopes and so I could pick a letter from my Mum the moment I saw the pile of letters on the table at the girls’ hostel where I boarded. When I was older we got into the habit of including newspaper and magazine cuttings of interest.
There is something so personal about a letter. My cousins decorate the envelopes of their letters with cut out pictures and perhaps a phrase, showing their personality and individuality. Other people I know would make cards to write in or make envelopes from magazine pictures or wrapping paper.
One of the things I like most about a real letter is it can be kept if desired. Yes, you can save an email on your computer, external hard drive or on a USB. You could print off special emails and keep them but it’s not the same. Does anyone actually print off personal emails and keep them? I have a few old letters dating back decades. Most are hand written, the paper yellowed and the ink may be faded and a little smudged. The personality of the writer shows through and these mementos are significant to me.
I read an article about snail mail in a community newspaper recently. The journalist was encouraging people to join the ‘snail mail trail’ and write a pen and paper type letter to someone. I read elsewhere that the writer thought snail mail letters would become popular again when the email craze has run its course. I do not think this will happen because people have become accustomed to the speed and ease of email as well as the ability to 'cc' the communication to several people at the same time.
I think we are losing a piece of history by not making more use of snail mail. Generations to come will not have letters written by their ancestors, lovingly saved. They will not be able to look at their hand writing. In fact many of the younger generation cannot read cursive handwriting as this type of writing is no longer taught.
Steve Carell, American actor, comedian, director and writer said,’Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly. It's disappearing. My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. And there's something visceral about opening a letter - I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.’ I think he has explained why a letter received by snail mail is special.