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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Opinion

Internet takes away personal touch of handwritten letter


Francis Emelogu/The Daily Cougar

In a day and age when technology pervades any and every facet of human life, when a text or call has the power to define it, I can’t help but wonder what’s left for our future flashbacks.

It makes one wonder whether there will be anything to find in the boxes in the attic we will stumble upon in a yearly bout of spring cleaning and the drawers our children will rummage through in pursuit of a deeper connection.

I have a strong supposition that the most important and memorable words of our lifetime will inevitably be lost in a digital vortex of our own creation — or worse: the spam folder.

This question of whether a handwritten letter is preferable to an email, text or post is proposed.

In an article entitled “Why E-mail Will Never Replace the Handwritten Note,” Forbes’ Jessica Kleiman encapsulates the dire significance of putting hand to paper and using an actual — brace yourselves — pen. My thumb pulses at the horror. In fact, the keypad behind my eyelids is becoming jumbled at the thought of it.

But Kleiman presents a worthwhile argument in the form of empathy. If you didn’t already feel guilty for not sending those thank-you cards after your birthday, cue panic.

“The generation graduating from college now has grown up in a digital world,” Kleiman said. “But there’s still something to be said for taking the time to handwrite your thoughts — whether it be your feelings for a loved one … or a thank you to someone who has taken the time to help you with your career.”

In a daunting revelation, Kleiman’s sentiments go beyond that of good ole’ etiquette. At the dawn of our “digital world,” somehow, archaic gestures have become impressive to those who aren’t scratching their heads — especially in the workforce.

“A female magazine publisher I know said that if she interviews someone and they don’t send a real note as a follow-up, she will not hire them, no matter how impressive they were in person,” Kleiman said.

Those of us used to the one-click hoorah of a send button may be shocked by this, considering the rapidity of the times we live in. But there’s something there, something we’re missing that got lost within the LED flash of hysteria.

How many people can honestly say they’re not disappointed every time they open their mailbox? Personally, I’ve downsized my magazine subscriptions, so I stop associating mail with joy. Mail is for bills and ads and more bills.

Sure, I would probably seize up with coffee-fueled euphoria if an out-of-state friend wrote me a letter or even a touching, short and sweet card. Where texts or emails are more of digital poking — a concise “Hey, just checking in” — a handwritten note is so romanticized at this point that we find it oddly dramatic and therefore endearing. The few times I have received or written a letter, I was slightly critical in my suspicion of the act being scandalous.

Why are they writing me? Am I that important to them? Should I be writing them? What’s a pen?

One could make the argument that while writing letters sounds like a good idea in theory, it’s not worth the time or effort because a simple Facebook message could accomplish the same thing. I go so far as to assume that this is the general opinion of most students whose busy schedules don’t allow them the luxury or desire to resist the temptation of a keyboard.

For political science senior Kendrick Alridge, this isn’t entirely true.

“Handwritten letters are much more personal and show effort from the author, to sit down and write it out,” Alridge said. “There’s a big difference in reading a whole letter written out by hand versus a letter typed up and signed at the bottom.”

It’s definitely worth considering. But as this heart-shaped month beats out its last few weeks, love tweets are sure to be more prevalent than what Lord Byron did with that utensil and some parchment. Better yet, I have no doubt that a chain email of a bug-eyed cat holding roses is certainly in circulation somewhere.

However, the act of sitting yourself down at a desk, selecting a few unwrinkled pages of stationary and stringing together a reminder to someone else that you’re not just a name on a screen sounds like a truly fascinating challenge we all could benefit from trying at least once.

Opinion columnist Alex Meyer is a creative writing freshman and may be reached at [email protected]


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