Is romance dead? You hear it said but is this actually true? Could 2016 be the year for invigorated and undulated love?
Probably not. But I thought I’d try my hand at it anyway. I’m a firm believer that social media, and even technology in general, is the root cause of all this. So I decided to go old school. I often take for granted the fact that my long-term and long-distance boyfriend is only a phonecall away, only a Facebook message away. While this is great as it means we can keep in contact for free and as often as we like, I find it does take the romance out of things. The lost art of letter writing is facing a colossal decline, with letters expected to decline from 13.8bn sent annually in 2013, to 8.3bn in 2023, in the UK alone.
I find this all quite sad to be honest. I remember a few years back, sleeping in the spare room at my nan’s house, and being nosy and curious. I started to rummage through the cupboards (I probably shouldn’t be telling you this) and I came across a bundle of beautifully handwritten letters dating back to the mid 60s. It was so heartwarming to see my grandparents writing such lovely letters to each other in their younger years, and it made me think.
The art of writing letters is all but lost in the modern age, and the only things we ever seem to receive in the post are unpaid bills, which is a slightly depressing observation. Though people often resent the laziness social media induces in us, the environmental impact if everybody were to still send letters as their main form of communication is staggering. Over 80% of the Earth’s natural forests have already been destroyed. And so for this reason, we should be thankful this is not still the only means of communication.
Feeling homesick last term, I decided I’d try my hand, quite literally, at writing letters. It felt oddly liberating, and I felt I was forced to think more about the words on the page. Social media is so instantaneous, and this can be a curse. You can often find yourself responding in the spur of the moment, saying things you perhaps normally wouldn’t say, and find difficult to retract. Equally, apologising over social media hardly has the same effect.
If you’re still not sold, heres a few reasons why you shouldn’t abandon the art of letter-writing:
1) You need to give it your undivided attention. When writing a letter, it’s easy to fuck up, (and when you’ve spent £6 on a letter paper from Paperchase, this is not an option). This in turn, makes you think more about what you are writing:
2) Selectivity. The small page, or postcard-side, allows room for only a few words, this helps you to really think about what you are saying, and you only have one chance, unlike social media, it therefore means more.
3) It makes you feel like a good human. A Dickensian heroine, a Shakespearean romantic, or that guy from Love Actually that stands outside Keira Knightly’s house in the snow. Quite simply, it makes you feel human (eww), but it truly does. It perhaps allows you to express yourself more fully, even anonymously, if you wish. As a student of History and Eng Lit, I felt I must in some way, pay homage to the ancient tradition.
4) It makes more sense. Look at all the best romantic films, they centre on letters and the written tradition. Namely, The Notebook, Atonement, Love Actually, Bridget Jones. There’s something about the written tradition that evokes a sense of romance, that isn’t quite captured in the same way on any social medium.
5) Surprise. People will not expect it, and this can work to your advantage. In a sinister way, it gives you the upper hand, shows you truly care and makes them realise how their poor text messages pale in comparison. However, it can also produce interesting responses; inspired by my nan’s letters I thought I’d send her a letter from uni and let her know how I’m getting on. I then received a desperate phonecall to a disapproving voice. Upon receiving the pink floral letter through the post, my nan, (naturally), assumed I was telling her something important, breaking to her the news that I was, infact, p.r.e.g.n.a.n.t?! This goes to show just how invested we become in our virtual worlds and forms of communication, that even my iPad-loving septuagenarian grandmother was shocked to receive a letter.
6) Lasting memory. A handwritten letter is a personalised gesture of love and care (it is), and when sending a mere second-rate message via Facebook, you cannot personalise it in the same way. A letter is also something with sentimental value, you cherish this for years to come, something you may look on fondly in future years.
O’Connell quotes this lovely passage from a piece by Catherine Field in the New York Times,
‘A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do.’
Personally, I prefer,
‘Relationships only lasted a long time in ur grandparents era because ur nan couldnt log on Facebook and see ur cunt of a Grandad has liked that slag Maureens Selfie, dispite her kicking off at him the day before for having her as his best mate on Snapchat.