Not long ago, for many of us, writing letters was the only means of communication over distances. But now, the addiction to instant communication has made us treat the art of writing someone a letter some kind of an ancient art-form. Moreover, the speed of SMS and emails is not fast enough for some of us. A bevy of abbreviations being invented these days leave people like me fazed. And whether we realize it or not, there is a great danger in the loss of the letter.
Letters have been made redundant by electronic communication which lacks a physical presence unless it is printed out (which governments and environmentalists discourage these days). This means that emails of love (which would once have been love letters); conversations with siblings or pals about families and friends will never be available to historians to discover aspects of our lives today. We are slowly becoming more and more isolated and insular in our views. The internet has broken down communication barriers on a global scale, but it has also built new ones on a local level.
If you think about the importance of letter writing throughout history, you will reckon that most of what we know about the beliefs, ideologies etc of many famous historical figures has been collected from their letters – personal and public correspondence. Letters are useful to historians because the character of famous people and their thought processes can often be revealed more clearly in informal communications (letters) than in official documents (biographies, textbooks etc).
A letter is a personal thing, even more now because we receive so few of them. It is all about sharing, it implies reciprocity and creates a two-way relationship. Letters matter because they are personal in an increasingly disconnected world, and because they take time and effort to produce. In short, writing a letter is giving a gift of oneself.
So, today, make a small gesture that will bring someone bit of happiness. Think of someone you care about, turn off your computer, and write them a letter. Who knows, you may soon be getting one in return 🙂
Srivyal Vuyyuri (www.sphoorti.org)