In a time when everyone is connected through texts and video calls, snail mail has become awkward, old and out of place. The art of letter-writing has become passé too, simply because faster, more visually engaging applications took its place. Why write a letter when you can easily post it on Facebook, call through Skype, or chat through WhatsApp? Why wait for the postman to deliver your letter when you can easily send (and receive) it by tweeting your friend from across the globe?
Social media has immensely transformed our lives by making communication faster and efficient. However, for those like me who enjoyed getting their addressed envelopes fresh from abroad, getting a personalized, physical letter is a big deal. It’s like receiving your Christmas gift in advance. Postcards are sweet, but nothing beats my cousin’s drawings and her funny updates written in cute stationery. Even today, despite getting the usual “Hi” and “How are you doing?” from my relatives on Facebook, nothing can replace the beauty of a handwritten, hand-doodled note.
If there is something that makes snail mail work: it's nostalgia. In “The Lost Art of the Handwritten Note” published by The Wall Street Journal, Philip Hensher discusses how digital technology, the wonder that it is, will not be treasured the way his teenage letters, journals and postcards have been for years. He follows this up in his book, "The Missing Ink," in which he points out that handwriting fills a human need.
"It involves us in a relationship with the written word, which is sensuous, immediate and individual," Hensher said. In the same book, he concludes, "To continue to diminish the place of the handwritten in our lives is to diminish, in a small but real way, our humanity."
Snail mail is personal, sentimental, and unlike the fleeting online messages, immortal. In many ways, people hold on to these physical letters, distinguish their loved ones' handwriting and revel in the short but meaningful messages drafted in ink.
Surprisingly, at the advent of social media, many startups have discovered a gold mine in snail mail. "Snail Mail My Email" for example, has become a community of volunteers who handwrite emails and send physical letters to recipients. Online stationery and designer card shops have started luring people back to the art of handwritten notes too. And if you are the comical kind, Etsy's “Smarty Pants Paper Co.” sells humorous cards, because there's always a funny side to everything.
It may take a while, but a personalized piece of snail mail is always worth the wait. Maybe today’s the day when you put your phone aside and start writing a note.