Letters in the Age of Internet

Nearly a couple of decades ago, my parents broke the news that we were to shift to a new city. I hated it. We were in Chennai back then. My school had just ended. I was enjoying my summer vacation with friends. I don’t remember much of what happened that summer but what I do remember is, I promised that I would keep in touch with this friend of mine through letters. This was the late 1990s. Smartphones and social networks were yet to find a way into our daily lives. Not many Indian homes even had telephones.

I have always loved writing letters. While writing letters, we are oblivious to the world around us. There is no worry as to how the other person would judge us by the textual narratives. There is no need to worry about typos. Fingers holding the pen are trustworthy companions over auto-suggestive keyboards. There is no need to rush. The recipient at the other end is not even aware that you are thinking of him or her and therefore, the interaction would not take a detour owing to interruptions from the other end. When the postman hands over the letter, the recipient is all the more surprised and holds it as dearly as one would a thoughtful gift. It is delightful to acknowledge that there exists a person who considers you special to share their thoughts or experiences. We cherish such people in our hearts and the bond gets strengthened. This is the reason why handwritten letters are said to come straight from the heart.

As we moved to emails, social networks and instant messaging, people lost their interest in writing handwritten letters. Why wait patiently when you can stay constantly connected with your friend(s)?

But what has truly been lost is the art of communication and delayed gratification. We live in the age of impulsive actions and reactions. There was a charm in patiently waiting for the response from your friend. Today, we look at the blue ticks and the last seen status to see if the friendship/relationship is worth our attention.

Social networks and Instant Messaging Apps have also taken away the mystery quotient involved with a long lost friend. Since we are constantly connected to our smartphones, the probability of losing our touch with friends has reduced. Therefore, we don’t get to hear stories of how our friends moved on from a heartbreaking relationship or found love or sacrificed social gatherings to focus and achieve a purpose filled goal. Facebook Timelines are enough to show you snippets. Where is the fun in that?

Social networks have made us obsessive in our craving for attention. We no longer possess the desire to ‘exclusively’ share our travel experiences with our friends. We want the world to know what is happening in our lives. We click ‘selfies’ wherever we go and post on Social Networks. We photograph everything but look at nothing. Sigh. That calls for a separate blog post.

A couple of months ago, I happened to write a really long handwritten letter to my friend. I went to the extent of telling my friend that there wouldn’t be any interactions on social networks or instant messaging apps till the letter was written and posted. When I completed the letter, it was twelve A4 pages long. The enriching experience left me longing to write more such handwritten letters.

For now, I shall plug in my earphones, listen to the mellifluous voice of Karen Carpenter singing ‘Please Mr. Postman’ and embrace good old memories.

If you need more persuasion to write a handwritten letter, perhaps you can watch this delightful TED Talk Hannah Brencher: Love Letter to Strangers.

Author: Kavir Nair

A bespectacled lad from the filter coffee preferring south Indian coastal city of Chennai. The Japanese coined a word just for me - Tsundoku, which means the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, often piled together with other unread books. Although I must add, having an unread library is the way I could truly honour the late Umberto Eco. When not watching movies in theaters or beach walking on Marina, you can find me at home reading a book or writing a journal or Netflixing. While I do all this as Ravi Kiran, my alter ego - Kavir Nair needs an exclusive space to write. Hence, he has chosen this abode.

2 thoughts on “Letters in the Age of Internet”

  1. Absolutely loved this read. Invokes so many nostalgic moments – of school, growing up, and the age before the Internet swept us by our feet. Very well-written


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