When was the last time you received a letter? The last time you saw your name hand written on the front of an envelope? Most people would find it almost impossible to remember the last time they received a letter through the letter box.
When was the last time you wrote a letter? The last time you set an hour aside, had a specific person in mind and wrote a collection of words to them? The answer is possibly, a very long time ago.
In 2013, our lives have gone instant. Why bother writing a letter when an email gets there faster? Why waste money on a stamp when an email is free? Why bother setting time aside to write a letter when I could be earning money? There’s no shame in the fact that we no longer write letters but a few generations ago this was the only way to communicate. The sad fact is that, for all our technology, we’ve lost the simple art of writing a letter.
My life is instant. Instant messaging, instant service, instant buying, instant food, instant blogging, instant feedback. It’s no wonder really. Life in Korea is so focused on technology, there’s a quick, smart way to do everything. My entire life is a concoction of every technology available, laptop, smart phone, ipod, Kindle, microwave, electric door lock, t.v. Everything I do is fast and instant and essentially, lifeless.
In many ways, the distance between my friends and I has diminished as a result of this instant communication. We talk on skype from opposite sides of the world as if we were sitting next to each other. We text each other on Kakao talk and LINE. There’s nothing I can say I don’t know about because “I’m abroad”.
In other relationships however, the distance has grown. My mother for example, never emails me. It’s not because she doesn’t love me, quite the opposite, it’s because she’s from a generation that didn’t communicate by email, they wrote letters. I always find her letters, scribbled in the familiar, illegible handwriting when I receive my tea bag, chocolate and Tayto rations. Sandwiched in between the animal bars and Curly Wurly’s is her letter.
Somehow she always seems to be able to fit all the most important information in a single piece of paper. And what do I do? I send an email to my sister to say thanks. I don’t know why. It’s not like I don’t have a pen or paper or time. I have all three is great abundance. Perhaps it’s sheer laziness. Perhaps it’s that I’m afraid if I start writing letters, I might actually enjoy it. Either way, because of my lack of committment to letter writing, the quality of my relationship with my Mum and Dad has diminished. They only ever speak to me when I’m on Skype with my sister and that’s not often enough. And all I have are guilty feeling that Mum went to the effort of sitting down to write a letter to me while all I could do was send an email. I reinforce every stereotype that the people from my generation are simply unable to communicate on anything that doesn’t involve a keyboard of some sort.
As I see it, anyone can send an email but it takes a certain amount of thought and effort to send a card or letter. As a big fan of TED talks, I recently watched Matt Cutts talk about doing something different for 30 days. You can watch it here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnfBXjWm7hc
Matt got me thinking. Why don’t I do something different for 30 days? Why don’t I write a letter to my mother/ family every day for the month of February? It’s not 30 days but it’s close. It’ll give me the chance to kick start our mother daughter relationship via her favoured method of communication. It’ll be the chance in every day to write my letter in the time I previously would have been wasting surfing the internet.
The message was relayed to my Mum via skype and the deal is that for every letter mum receives, I’ll receive a written reply. It will probably be from Mum because Dad (a local author and poet) can never focus for long enough to write the news on a page! My sister thinks it’s a slightly random idea but I think it’s exactly the challenge needed in my life.
At the end of February/ early March, when all the letters have been sent and received, I’ll (in a somewhat ironic twist) blog about it. I already have the paper and envelopes at my apartment, all I have to do is wait for February. If you want to follow my challenge you can do so on twitter (@shaunabrowne).