We exist in a voyeuristic age. Our ‘friends’ number in the thousands, we like and poke, favourite and regram them, we collect morsels of their lives through crafted snapshots and communicate in rapid-fire messages of emoticons, abbreviations, acronyms, quick quips and comic banter. LOL YOLO FOMO WTF FML OMG #sorrynotsorry – what does it all even mean?
We see a lot of people’s lives, but what do we really know of them, and they of us? Even the long-form email is fading into the abyss.
But we’re not here to discuss the potential shortcomings of anti-social media, or to ponder the inevitable grammatical crisis facing digital natives, but instead to help revive a craft that is quickly disappearing: the craft of letter writing.
So we say screw you Facebook chat. Indulge in some beautiful paper and start writing your prose.
As travellers ourselves, we’re well versed in the joy/ tragedy of gaining friends across oceans. And while social media has probably facilitated the continuation of some of these otherwise impossible relationships, we dare say it has done little to further develop them.
How many strangers do you discover in your newsfeed that you once shared an intimate evening of travel-drunk conversation with? You probably know more of their nephew’s nappies now than you do of their thoughts, ideas and feelings.
So we say screw you Facebook chat. Indulge in some beautiful paper and start writing your prose. Write a letter, something tactile, something you can send that the vast black void of the information-hungry internet can’t lay claim to. Let your friend/lover/future wife see your scrawl, read your story, feel the paper, smell your scent. (Creepy? Maybe. But you certainly can’t spray perfume on a Facebook message).
An empty piece of paper isn’t judgmental like the vast white space of an email – it’s humble and inviting. And taking pen to paper has a special power. It allows your heart to fall upon the page without inhibition. Writing with your hand activates your left brain (the rational, analytical side), which in turn leaves your right brain free to create and feel. It removes the block, brings clarity, inspires intuition and connects you.
Your hand can move freely and carry your thoughts with it, not bound by the box before you. Nor is it bound by words alone. Draw pictures, doodle, make patterns! The page is your oyster, so to speak.
Surely there is nothing greater in the world than receiving mail without an agenda. No bill, no RSVP date, no plea for money, no call to action. Receiving a letter is like receiving a little piece of someone.
Better still, anything that ends up scrawled on the page lives in ink forever. The scribbles and rewrites and arrows ensure you don’t brashly delete work that may later inspire greatness. They are all a part of the process. Even rubbish words may have value that the cold hard definitive backspace just doesn’t recognise.
But writing pen to paper also forces you to be more thoughtful, more scrupulous – not to spew out menial silliness purely for the sake of making noise. Scribbling has a place, but you never aspire to scribble for the sake of it. Every word counts and in writing a letter you have to fill a page, you have to make it worthwhile, make it worth the envelope, the stamp, the time. Letters encourage you to share stories and ideas, rather than endless, meaningless one word repartee. Share a little of yourself. Reflect. Engage. Fill the page with something worth sending across the world…
Hunt through that drawer of junk, find paper, the only working pen in your house and write to that human on the other end of the earth. Share a little of yourself.
And we haven’t even touched on the wonder of receiving a letter. Surely there is nothing greater in the world than receiving mail without an agenda. No bill, no RSVP date, no plea for money, no call to action. Receiving a letter is like receiving a little piece of someone, a little moment in time captured. You can feel the weight of their touch, see the drop of red wine, tea or spaghetti in the corner, the clumsy fold, the meticulous handwriting, the tired errors. And it asks nothing of you. It is pure generosity. Pure kindness.
So next time you find yourself mindlessly navigating the cold chasm of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter in search of connection, people, old friends, new lovers… put your phone down, friend. Hunt through that drawer of junk, find paper, the only working pen in your house and write to that human on the other end of the earth. Share a little of yourself. And enjoy the pace of the real world again.
You may make a friend for life.
Inspired to travel the world with some new companions? Enter Intrepid’s Take a Friend or Make a Friend competition, and you’ll be in with a chance to win up to $20,000 worth of travel!
Feature image c/o Greta Ceresini