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Re: A Month of Letters Challenge, The Degradation of Social Networking

Posted by Kent Whittington on February 3, 2012 at 7:05 PM

Recently, I joined a challenge known as a Month of Letters whose purpose is simple, send 24 letters in 24 days in the month of February.  I just received my first response in the form of a postcard from a new friend in Massachusetts, shown here:

The message was warm and heartfelt, even wishing my wife a happy birthday and an invitation to write back.  It was a nice find in my mailbox today.

And it got me thinking.

I recently had an incident where someone on a social network (a friend that I have known for years both online and in person) decided, out of the blue, that he wanted to "unfriend" me from his list.  I was able to find out that the reason he gave was that "he wanted to streamline his list to only include friends he saw and had regular contact with."


In an age of digital media, is it really so easy for friends who have known each other for decades to just disregard that friendship?  The rationale behind this eludes me!  If a person has a group of friends he sees on a regular basis and communicates regularly with, wouldn't it make more sense to wish to keep the people he does not see on a network so that he can keep in touch?  Has the age of digital media and social networking made people calloused in regards to anothers feelings?

So often I have seen how a person on a social network feels slighted because of comments made by another, rather than taking another person's feelings into account.  Worse, this often occurs publicly, so everyone can see the negativity firsthand.

This is why A Month of Letters has so much appeal for me.

First, a letter is personal.  It is something to be shared solely between two people.  True, a letter may be shared with other once the receiver gets it, but even so, it is often with only a select few rather than the entire internet community.  The information is kept much more confidential.

Secondly, a letter, being a personal written message, takes a little more effort and forethought to complete.  It is far too easy to send harsh words over the internet, and far to easy to regret them later.  A person writing a letter in anger must take the time to piece their words together as they gather their thoughts and may often rethink what they are thinking even as they write.  It gives the individual a chance to slow down and think before they leap.  And if the letter is fun and written in friendship?  I think that makes it more valuable than gold!

In most cases, letters are just fun because they are something that a person can look forward to receiving.  We look forward to hearing from the sender rather than jumping on our computer and saying, "Oh! I see so and so has a post."   A letter is something we can anticipate with great joy and feeling, something we can read over and again and hold in our hands, knowing that this person thought enough about another to send them a personal message!

I think as a computer-aged civilisation we have lost touch with what the written word actually means when used to express how we feel.  We have forgotten that words can do more than process information.  Words can have an impact on a person's feelings.  Words can heal, but they can hurt as well, especially when they are handled with the disregard of many a social networker.

I remember I used to write love letters when I was in high school to my girlfriend.  She would write back and say the sweetest things.  I kept those letters in a box for years and often took them out and read them just because they made me feel good.  Can we even really do that in the internet? Not likely.  For me, that would be something I would not ever want to risk sharing with the world and a printed text message is not only impersonal but not long lasting.

So I'll get to my point, since I tend to ramble and may not make a lot of sense.  I would challenge everyone who views this to write at least one letter to a friend they speak with online all of the time.  Tell them perhaps that you thought it would be a nice idea to take the time to drop them a letter to just say "hi."  Maybe you have something really great going on in your life and you want to share it with your best friend.  Why not do it in the form of a letter?  I challenge everyone to send and receive one letter and see how it makes you feel.

I loved my postcard!

Categories: Musings, Personal Schtuff!, Family and Friends

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