Why I’ve started… sending letters to my friend

This time last year, I was a different person. Not only did I naively anticipate the obliteration of the Covid-19, but I communicated my fears and anxieties almost entirely online. Of course, nowadays, we don’t really have a choice. But the fast-paced digitisation of today’s world, though filled with opportunity, is also risky.

According to popular theory, human beings are, naturally, social creatures. If this theory is correct, then we’ve all suffered throughout the pandemic, with schools closed and weddings

postponed. As many have suffered, video teleconferencing softwares such as Zoom have greatly benefited from the virtualizing nature of communication, accumulating a total of 3.3 trillion meeting minutes since the start of 2021, compared to 97 billion the previous year.

You’ve probably used it. My 82-year-old grandad does, though not very well. Like Marmite, some love it and others loathe it. A few months ago, my best friend sent me a text message that simply read, “Let’s send each other postcards.” We had been discussing the artificiality of our digital communication for some time before. The transition itself felt not only possible, but important. Instead of the smiley face emoji, I wrote to my friend on a card with a language and diction only the process of writing could invoke. For me, the act of writing, sealing and stamping my card before finally posting the letter, has made the nature of our friendship feel more genuine and endearing.

The letters are short, yet marked with a great deal of emotion. Given the length of time it takes to send, receive and reply to a letter, the scarcity of our written interactions has meant – given the limited time and space – we no longer take each other for granted.  In other words, I now realise how lucky I am to have them as a friend.

Clearly, the way we communicate is changing on a dramatic scale. The technologization of our world is extraordinary, and often lifesaving. And yet, despite playing a key part in this revolution as a university student, I am using a pen and paper now more than ever before. It’s totally life changing.

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Sam Gordon Webb

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October 2021
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