There was a time, not that long ago, where the morning post would bring delights: postcards, letters from friends, invitations and maybe even a cheeky letter from a girl. But then technology struck: email and mobile phones began to plague lives, and the letter died, it was deemed an unnecessary object, which could be completed much more conveniently by an electronic message.
However, should we let this lazy swap for convenience occur? I think not. When you send an email you create nothing, the “text” you have typed out exist purely in an intangible cyberspace. At the same time email has done away with all distinction in tone. Sarcasm and humour go undetected, and messages, whether they are from close family or mere acquaintances begin with “Hey!”
Letters, meanwhile, are passionate, conveying their message with elegance and style. In the act of choosing your ink, paper, envelope, you leave part of yourself for the recipient to gain. You make something unique. The physical markings on a piece of paper are far more powerful and special to the reader than pixels on a screen.
Furthermore, our knowledge of the historical world is hugely fuelled by letters. The Romans wrote many letters, for example, Pliny the Younger gives us, in a letter, an eyewitness account of the eruption of Vesuvius. Later, Napoleon wrote of his passion to Josephine; Hitler justified his madness and Ted Hughes told the world of his life. And in 2010 one of the most visited Royal Academy Exhibition’s titled “The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters”, charted Van Gogh’s life in a way that his paintings had never before done. I cannot imagine an exhibition titled “Damien Hurst: His Emails and Texts” to be quite so captivating. This is because letters have weight to them, on receiving one; you can handle it, hide it, and open it when you’re on your own, lose it for 10 years, find it again, read it, and smile, laugh or weep. A letter compels its reader to keep it, in a way that a text or email does not. And this is why letters survive for so long.
While there is only one type of email, there are many different sorts of letters. The thank-you letter is brings joy to its reader. A letter of condolence remembers the deceased, expresses sadness, and offers hope and comfort. RSVPs are quick and formal. This specification that letters have is truly extraordinary.
It may seem as if yours truly is a philistine when it comes to technology, after all, I am writing for an online news site, which may be calling for the beginning of the end for newspapers.
I accept that anyone born in the modern era we live in knows emails connect the world, spanning over continents making communication quick and simple. However, does this mean for the sake of pure convenience we should merely do away with the act of writing a letter?
On the contrary, it is rather something that should be treasured. It may be more time consuming than an email or text message, however the letter can say so much more, and it can be as sincere and emotional as its author wants it to be wants it to be. It brings joy to both the recipient and the author. And is an act that would be a disaster to lose.
“Bold types write letters.”