The Case for Correspondence

There’s a scene in the film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in which it is revealed that Lara Jean’s little sister stole her hatbox full of eloquent love letters and sent them out to the world, sparking the plot of the entire romantic comedy. Although Lara Jean is (understandably) upset by this development, a simple question by her sister gives her pause. If she really never meant for her stash of letters to be sent, why did she address them? Subconsciously, didn’t she want something in her life to be real? This is the power of letters. They are able to express the feelings that are too complicated to convey over text message. There is inherent vulnerability in giving a physical form to your words, in sending a representation of your emotions that somebody to keep. In this day and age, communication is more efficient than ever before. Text messages, emails, and videos can be sent with the press of a button. Technology is so advanced that we’ve even invented new languages for it, conveying ideas with internet slang and nuance with digital smileys. Yet despite the amount of information kept virtually, tangible artwork is also making a comeback. Image Credit: Muffin

It seems that every college student listens to Spotify, but vinyl record collections are also becoming popular again. Polaroid pictures are more and more common. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu dominate entertainment, but I was shocked to visit a friend’s house the other day and see a stack of VHS tapes on top of the television. One thing seems clear: society craves physical, not just digital, property. Writing letters is a wonderful way to satisfy our need for connection. If someone sends me a meaningful text message, I might reread it once or twice and then forget about it entirely; meanwhile, I keep meaningful letters pinned to the wall above my bed. Maybe it’s similar to the difference between a home cooked meal and a microwaved one. Knowing the time and effort that goes into sending a handwritten letter makes you feel special to be receiving one — and once it’s yours, it’s yours forever, no iCloud data plan or screenshots required. Checking the mail is one of the most exciting parts of my day. At home, I run outside barefoot to check the mailbox, and receiving a personal letter amidst a stack of bills and advertisements gives me the emotional high of a ten-year-old opening Christmas gifts.

Image Credit: Liam Anderson

On the other hand, sending letters is just as therapeutic for the sender as it is for the receiver. The more kindness we pour into the world, the brighter the world becomes. Perhaps this is why letter-writing has been transformed into an art as of late. Stores sell so many kinds of stationary and washi tape, stickers and pens, that you can really let your personality shine through in anything you send. Taking time to create something is fundamentally an act of self-care, and you don’t even have to know where or how you want to begin. Just sitting down and writing is enough.