FELLAS: The case for snail mail

We can’t be together physically, so let’s write handwritten letters as a physical reminder that we’re thinking of our loved ones.

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Emery Little

It’s time for a snail mail come back. (Hustler Communications/Emery Little)

Nora Fellas, Staff Writer

We’ve all heard the frightening tales about how President Trump’s refusal to approve a grant to save the United States Postal Service (USPS) from bankruptcy spells doom for democracy and for you getting your packages on time. And while I’m not proposing a complete solution to save the USPS, I will offer a sweet and tender method of patronizing the mail service. 

As much as I love FaceTiming my friends and family, we all know it isn’t the same as being physically together. And that’s why last week I decided to sit down and handwrite letters to my friends from home. 

Writing each letter required a deep focus that I never feel when talking to someone through a screen. Even though I was technically less connected to each person—writing a letter is a very solitary activity—carving out time to devote to each friend, choosing what font to attempt as I wrote each person’s name, pouring out everything I had been wanting to say and, in turn, asking them all of my questions about their lives felt so much more personal than a FaceTime call in which I’m also scrolling through about six other apps.  

Last week I decided to sit down and handwrite letters to my friends from home. (Hustler Staff/Nora Fellas) (Nora Fellas)

Furthermore, when you go to a museum or an archive focused on a historical or literary figure, you don’t swipe through an email thread to learn about them, but you can read their letters. Imagine purchasing a copy of Vincent Van Gogh’s texts to his brother, Theo. Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? And hey, maybe one day your quarantine letters will be on display in a museum exhibit all about you.

Of course there are some drawbacks to snail mail, like the time it takes to send or receive a letter, but consider this: film photography has seen a resurgence among young people in the last few years precisely because of the time it takes for photos to be developed. There is something so exciting about receiving physical copies of photos weeks after you have taken them, being surprised by small moments you had forgotten, when compared with scrolling through your camera roll while you are still at the event. 

Receiving a letter in physical form allows the recipient to see so much: small quirks of someone’s handwriting, silly drawings, color, scratched out misspellings and a train of thought as it poured out of the sender. So while we can’t be in person, receiving a physical reminder that someone is thinking of you feels so much more like being in person than seeing someone’s tiny face on a screen. 

So, I challenge you to bring back snail mail.

Send your friends and family some letters. Spend time, use color and stickers and encourage them to write you back. Since Vanderbilt announced that we’ll be spending nine weeks at home between Thanksgiving and the start of in-person spring semester classes, I’ve been thinking about ways to keep my nascent first-year friendships alive. And I’m excited to incorporate letter writing as a way to pass the hours and connect with my physically far away friends.