For the analog experiment, I decided to write a letter to a friend. When I communicate with people who I don’t see all the time, I usually call or text them. However, one of my good friends, Anthony, I don’t regularly communicate with other than through Snapchats and a text now and then. We never have long conversations on the phone, although we used to. And we see each other maybe a few times a year. Yet, when we do finally see each other after long periods of time, it’s like we pick up right where we left off. It doesn’t feel as though however many months has passed since we last saw each other. We’ve known each other since we were both six years old through summer camp, went to middle school together, and then remained close friends through high school and I still consider him one of my closest friends. He is a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey and we both lead busy lives making it harder to talk regularly.
Once I decided to write the letter, I almost immediately thought of Anthony because we hadn’t talked in so long. We’ve communicated but we hadn’t really talked. Although I rarely write letters, despite the fact that I think sending and receiving them is such a wholesome and intimate feeling, I always have everything needed to mail one out. Since my summer sleepaway camp days of 2011-2013, I’ve kept all the stationary, (the paper and envelope sets) that my grandma gave to me to write letters to her and my parents. The reason it’s lasted so long is because apart from my digital technology-less summer camp experience, I can only think of maybe one or two occasions in which I actually sent letters to people. This doesn’t include postcards, which I’ve sent a few of during my travels.
I also always have stamps and extra envelopes on hand in my desk. I think of them as one of those things that is necessary to have, like matches or band-aids, because I never know when I might need it. The particular collection I currently have I got from the post office a year or so ago, because I needed new stamps. The post office has seasonal or specialty Forever stamp sheets, and the ones I have are inspired by the artwork of the sculptor, Ruth Asawa. I saw the stamps and had to have them because of how unique and mesmerizing they were.
The letter that I ended up writing wasn’t particularly long or intense. It filled up the stationary card and once I finished, it felt complete. After rereading the letter, I felt that the content of what I was saying to Anthony would’ve taken on a different context if I had said it in a text message. It wasn’t a particularly sentimental letter, but I think the fact that it was handwritten adds another dimension of thought and effort. Even the small aspects, like taking the time to write out his name and address on the envelope and writing my return address, deciding which stamp to use, and walking to the USPS mailbox, are all extra steps that add to the experience. Also, because snail mail is so much less commonplace nowadays, receiving a letter from someone is more special than receiving a text message. I can send a text to someone I just met and it won’t really hold much weight. But I rarely write letters so if I do write to someone, that means they are someone I really care about.
My letter was light-hearted and simple, and that was my intention. I just wanted to say hello, give him a quick rundown on my life, tell him that I’m thinking of him, and tell him that I’m interested to hear about his life and how he’s doing. I told him that I expected a letter back from him, only half-jokingly, and I’m sure he will send me one. Hopefully this begins a new tradition between us.
This exercise was honestly really pleasant and enjoyable. Writing a letter to my friend made me feel more connected to him in my heart. There was also something so aesthetically pleasing about placing the stamp in the corner, sealing it up and placing it in the mailbox. It filled me with a sense of completion. It’s also a simple task to complete. It’s not as simple as sending a text or calling someone on the phone, but it wasn’t that much more time-consuming in comparison. All of the additional aspects of sending a letter were the aspects of the task that made it enjoyable to me. I plan to write more letters to people I love and care about, because it’s a simple and thoughtful way to let people know how much you care.