The Value of the Handwritten Letter

I never truly appreciated a handwritten letter until attending college far from home. Back home, I was always surrounded by my closest friends and family. I always texted, FaceTimed and emailed regularly with those in my life, and I did not see great value in sending notes through the mail. Especially in an era in which most communications are instantly delivered via text or email, physical letters felt outdated and excruciatingly slow. I was annoyed when some colleges insisted upon sending their acceptance or denial decisions via snail mail; communication in our current technological era conditions us to expect responses instantly, and the physical postal system requires significantly more time than that to which we are accustomed. However, with the absence of my family and friends from home while in college, I discovered the value of a handwritten letter.

 

I brought some note cards and stamps with me to college, but I hardly expected to use them regularly. I quickly realized, however, that I loved receiving letters in the mail. My family, extended family, boyfriend and family friends all send me cards frequently, and receiving them is always a great surprise in a busy week. The experience of holding and seeing a tangible letter with a loved one’s handwriting is far different than that of texts, which inevitably become lost in long strings of messages and lack the personality of physical writing. I enjoy hearing from them and writing them back, as I know that receiving a letter back can bring an unexpected surprise in one’s day.

I still text and FaceTime those in my life frequently, but I have found that the gift of receiving a letter is not lost in an era of technology. The mailroom in my dorm is often open later at night when I am trying to finish homework, when I am inevitably stressed about upcoming exams and tired from the long day. Reading a letter from someone close to me from back home at that time provides a good emotional reset when I need it most. Letters can be longer or more profound, but I also think that there’s great value in someone taking the time to sit and write a quick note about what is happening in their life, especially when I am away from home and unable to watch their experiences unfold. 

I will always love receiving texts or calling my family and friends on FaceTime, which has also become more important to me in college. I usually know to expect calls which require a degree of coordination between conflicting busy schedules. Letters, on the other hand, are very simplistic; they are read and written in one’s own time without the pressure or expectation to respond quickly or to pick a time that works for everyone involved. Of course, receiving a response via snail mail is still slow and unpredictable, but that’s part of the appeal of receiving a handwritten note. It’s not, and never will be, my primary method of communication—I am still of the generation that texts nonstop—but letters have become an unexpected method of communication that I have learned to value in college.

Photos 1 and 2. Photo 3 courtesy of Erica's Sweet Tooth.