P. Lester: Letters

I’ll admit it — I’m overwhelmed. The anxiety, however, is not just coming from my English paper on apocalyptic tradition, my research job, or even my Physics homework. These tasks, while perhaps a bit time consuming, are ones that can be dealt with methodically and purposefully. They make sense. What’s overwhelming me currently is not so much the long to-do list I have, but the medium through which I complete so many of the items: the internet.

The internet, a stockpile of quasi-useful information, basically screams the message that I must keep track of every aspect of my social life while staying in touch with the latest memes, blogs, and youtube videos. Emails have to be responded to promptly. Facebook notifications must be accepted and statuses read. And within a week- let’s be honest, more like a day-most of the information I acquire from Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and the like is absolutely irrelevant to me.

Perhaps author Mary Robinette Kowal was feeling the same frustration when she gave up the internet for an entire month last September. And instead of her social life going to the dogs like Facebook would have you believe she engaged with her friends in a different way: through letters. For those of you who have forgotten this near-lost art, when I say “letters” I mean a constructed, personal message sent via post to acquaintances, relatives, romantic partners or long-lost friends. According to Kowal, letter writing is “relaxing…intimate…lasting and ephemeral”; a bit more complex than your average Facebook status.

Kowal has now posed the challenge of letter writing to everyone else by declaring February 2012 “A Month of Letters”. And while she doesn’t ask anyone to give up the internet, she asks that people participate by writing a letter every post day during the month of February (that’s 24 days) and responding to the letters you receive. Sure, February may have already begun, but that doesn’t mean it is too late to jump on the bandwagon. Kowal has more than enough suggestions for late starters on her website (www.maryrobinettekowal.com) and “Month of Letters” blog (www.lettermo.com). And perhaps by writing letters one may find that they think less about just quickly writing the next email or status and more about taking the time to write a well-constructed, old-fashioned letter.


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