Comparing the Eras: Where People Wrote Letters and When They Did Not

I love writing. You know, my hand, a pen and paper. Not typing on a keyboard.

My mother taught me to always send hand-written thank you letters. I still do. I have my own stationery, a drawer full of unique cards, notes and letters so I am equipped to write at anytime. For example, I wrote 20Things I love about my friends, in list form, from the inspiration of Operation Nice and sent the handwritten lists around the country to my friends. Think about how good it feels to find a card or letter in your mailbox amongst the mundane bills.

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Funny coming from a blogger, right?

Well, it worries me, because we’re the first generation to have no written record of ourselves. An article on the importance of writing humorously asks, “If Jefferson had sent text messages to Adams, think what would have been lost to history.” A valid thought, no doubt.

I find it ironic that we e-mail and text and all the massive amounts of information shared through YouTube, television, cameras, phones, networks and blogging which record every second of our lives, however, it can all be deleted or lost in translation. Newsweek author, Malcolm Jones finds the root of this problem “is sifting through the set of data. The most common complain of our time is that we are overwhelmed by information, unmediated and unstoppable.”

I agree with Jones when it comes to lack of writing in our generation: “The decline in letter writing constitutes a cultural shift so vast that in the future, historians may divide time not between B.C. and A.D. but between the eras when people wrote letters and when they did not.”

Writing isn’t only a nostalgic feeling for us but “when we read a letter, we develop an image of the letter writer unavailable to us in any other way.” We are transported to the writers words, voice and personality. The written word is alive to me. It’s like comparing your favorite book, eloquently written and envisioned, to a movie. The two simply do not compare.

Writing is important and writing is real.

I write to clear my mind. I write to understand how I feel. I write to express myself. I write to show my love. I write love letters. I have a box of love letters I’ve received over time, from crushes, the big love, high school, college and this year. I will keep them forever. I write to give. I write lists and notes, everyday. I write what I want in life.

I write and I don’t want to stop writing. Pretty soon (if not already) we will be comparing our eras – where people used to write and to now and the future, when we stopped the art of physically writing.

***UPDATE*** A reader sent me this great article in the Wall Street Journal talking about the postal service’s declining business but how the written word is still going strong. I wanted to share with everyone because of it’s relevancy and interesting content. Not to mention, thank you all so much for sharing. I’m happy to hear, there are so many others who find an affinity with the written word. Keep sharing and of course, keep writing. -G

Have you thought about the historical context of hand-written versus online? Do you still write letters or cards or is completely obsolete to you?

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