Simple joy packaged in envelopes

Students shine light on significance of writing letters

Hailey Echan, Staff Reporter

a letter being dropped in a postal service box
Photo Illustration by Marissa Lordahl

The advancements of technology are changing the means and pace of communication every day, but sophomore computer engineering major, Colin Brenchley, prefers to take his time and write out what he wants to say on paper. 

Now more than ever, in the midst of a pandemic, when the mundane, constant texting conversations are simply not enough and in-person contact is limited, students latch on to any form of meaningful communication they can find.

“There is a difference between a text and a written letter. Letter-writing is more than a way of communication, it’s a way of sharing your appreciation for someone,” Brenchley said over Zoom. 

Writing letters became a novel concept around 500 B.C. when, according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome, Persian Queen Atossa wrote the first handwritten letter ever recorded.  

Over time, people began to write letters more and more; that is until new technology began to surface. 

Today there is texting, social media, phone calls and video calls.

There is little need for writing letters to preserve memories or thoughts with today’s technology; yet, it still exists and is sought out by many as a way to communicate and encourage one another. Students like Brenchley recognize that even if writing letters is not essential for communication, it adds a deeper layer to how and why we communicate. 

“What makes a letter more impactful than a text is you can tell someone put a lot of time and effort into it,” Brenchley said. “A text shows you were thinking of them for that second, but with a letter it shows you thought about them throughout the entire process.”

Brenchley appreciates the care behind letter-writing and values slowing down to think through what to say, rather than the fast-paced technological communication that is integrated into his daily routines.

A world surrounded by instantaneous results has made the idea of slowing down obsolete. 

Google Maps, Facebook Messenger and Instagram direct messages are all culprits of speeding up the pace of our lives. There is no reason to slow down these days, but it is still desired by students like Brenchley and writing letters has proven to be a great way to do exactly that.

“Writing a letter helps to slow down the process of your everyday life. Thinking about what to write and then actually writing it all down takes time.”

The three students interviewed agreed that writing a letter to someone forces the writer to stop, think and intentionally write out their thoughts. It pulls them away from the blur of life and places them in a still moment that they get to enjoy and then pass on to someone else. 

Senior theology major Rachel Weisz takes delight in writing letters or notes of encouragement to friends on a weekly basis.

“Even hand-writing a simple note of encouragement to give to a friend can make their day,” Weisz said over Zoom.

The deeper importance of letter writing not only stems from a unique way to encourage someone, but it is also a special way of staying connected, especially in a time of separation. 

“Letters have been a fun way to both practice patience and remain connected with people,” Weisz said.

Since communication has been limited and friends from school have scattered across the globe due to COVID-19, any sense of human connection is important. A quick text of encouragement can be helpful in the moment, but Weisz appreciates the physical aspect of a letter because it reminds her of the importance of staying connected.

“It feels extra special to have something your friend held in their hands. It’s a shared experience in a way that texting or a computer conversation is not.”

A desire for a deeper sense of connection and a break from computer conversations has led students to lean into the art of letter writing. 

Especially now, in this time of constantly looking at screens and not spending as much time with people, students like sophomore nutrition and dialectics major, Lexi Poisel, enjoy the simple act of writing a letter. 

“I think there is a special simplicity to it. It removes us from our constant need to be in contact with a screen,” Poisel said over email. 

The art of writing a letter may be old school, but it continues to create opportunities, for the students interviewed, to slow down, be intentional and appreciate the past. Without these daily reminders, communication may feel less meaningful. 

Students at SPU continue to write letters and find meaning in not only the content of the letter, but also what is written between the lines: the time, effort and thought. 

“Letter writing is so unique and who doesn’t like getting mail?!” Poisel said.