We are living in a world of technology - and over the last few months our reliance on digital communication has become greater than ever before. Zoom calls have become a major part of our working life, in fact the video chat platform is estimated to receive 300 million participants per month compared to just 10 million per month this time last year.
Living with Covid-19 has meant families are separated far and wide and we are all having to engage in a large proportion of our social life online. Keeping in touch in our new world is done through facetime, WhatsApp, email, skype or house party as we engage in online wine tasting courses, bake off’s and virtual family quizzes! Today, worldwide we send 306 billion emails, 65 billion Whatsapp messages and over 1 billion Facebook messages per day. On the flip side the number of letters now sent by "snail mail" has dramatically fallen over the last 10 years although living through a pandemic has seemed to help some people resurrect their love of letter writing. The United States postal service recently announced that they had seen a significant growth in stamp sales this summer and had reportedly found that one in six consumers had sent more mail to family and friends than ever before, giving us an indication that Covid-19 has partially helped resurrect the letter!
Of course, technology is there for a reason and in these weird times I for one am grateful more than ever for been able to log onto Facebook and to be able to instantly speak to and see my family and friends who live thousands of miles away. For my parents who now have not seen their only grandchild for almost a year, virtual calls are so important and thankfully we are lucky enough to be able to access these platforms.
However, I am finding myself writing letters and sending cards more than ever before. The significance of writing a heart-felt message with a pen on paper is unbeatable and is somehow exciting for both the sender and the recipient.
I have always loved the excitement of receiving a handwritten letter or card in the post. From an early age I would often go on family holiday's and come back with numerous "penfriend’s". I would spend my pocket money on new stationary and remember fondly buying a Beatrix Potter themed writing kit with cute paper and matching envelopes. In later years as a teenager experiencing a summer away from home in the US, I clearly remember the excitement of receiving letters from my best friend with all the gossip from back home. I would read these letters over and over and then tack them to my wall as decoration. Yes, emails can be sent in an instant but there is something so personal about receiving a card or letter in the post - the fact that someone took the time out to buy a card, hand write a personal note and then take time out of their day to post the mail shows real thought and love that you just can't get from an email.
I often think back to world war times when the only way of communicating to loved ones was via letter. Women would wait weeks and months for news that their husband was safe and well. Receiving a letter would give them hope and belief and would keep them going through the months until their husbands return. I remember when my grandmother passed, and we found piles of handwritten letters from my grandfather who had served in the second world war. The letters we found were clearly written with hope and love and were then stored in a cute decorative box for years to come. Crinkled and faded and clearly read over and over bringing joy to my grandmother but also to my Dad and myself years later. I often wonder what will happen in the future and how will our children and our children’s children will understand previous generations love and admiration for each other in the absence of letter writing – we rarely print and keep emails and messages? Will our kids find an old iPhone in a drawer and power it up and read old messages? I just can’t imagine that this would have the same impact on my kids that my grandfather’s letters had on me, decades after they were written.
Christmas is fast approaching and many are already stocking up on cards to ensure loved ones receive their heartfelt messages in time. As we all grapple with the pandemic, remember receiving a card or letter shows thought, love and kindness, the tye of emotions that an email or a text could never give.
Whilst this time of year makes us pick up the pen and write our cards, remember, writing isn’t just for Christmas, it's for life.