Saturday, 11 January 2014


In my childhood I, like many others of my generation, had penpals. There was a great sense of anticipation when waiting for the postman to deliver another batch of colourful letters, large curlicue script laboriously handwritten onto brightly coloured paper. It was a time when you could buy stationery sets with co-ordinated writing paper and envelopes and someone like me would be happy to receive such a gift.

Times have moved on and there is no place now for the handwritten letter. Penpals have been replaced with Facebook friends or Twitter followers. A three page missive complete with doodles and inkblots has now been supplanted with six word tweets, a click on a "like" button or a text.

These all have their place and I do like the instant gratification that comes with social media but I really miss the luxury of literacy. When letters became passé I took comfort in the lengthy email exchanges I used to enjoy but now even these have dwindled as more and more people forsake the effort of composing anything longer than a paragraph in favour of electronic grunts.

According to the media we all have reduced attention spans these days. They blame the MTV generation for the current state of play and point to the ever decreasing amount of time people are prepared to dwell on any one aspect of online interaction. There has been a weird devolution down from emails, forums and blogging down to Facebook updates, to Tweets and on to Tumblr and Pinterest pages where people don't post words at all a lot of the time. Even a two minute video on Youtube can be a bit much for some and the six second Vine is an improvement. All in the name of keeping things fresh, fast moving and therefore entertaining.

I'm not sure whether it is because I am a contrary old bat or if I am just a superior sort of being but I find that with my long attention span I am not entertained so much by snippets, grunts and pointing at things. I prefer my entertainment to be a more in depth process where I can immerse myself into what pleasure there is to be had. It's why I read novels rather than magazines, why I prefer an hour long walk to ten minutes on a treadmill. It is definitely a standard by which I would choose a lover. My favourites and most skilled have always been those who can write and win me over with words. Cunning linguists will always find favour in the Boudoir.



Ceeej said...

I remember the delight of receiving a letter in the post, a personal one of course and not just one containing an invite to the next clinic appointment, as personal as that may be.

What we really need is a stationery set that allows you to 'like' a letter, it could be the next big social media trend.

Luka Sooxter said...

How would that work, exactly? You could be onto a winner here - market it to the Royal Mail to boost stamp sales!

Walker said...

I never had a pen-pal and can't really say i wrote anyone a letter before i was in my forties and even then they were few and far in between.
In a way my blog was that for me i just didn't write to one specific person just to the wind for anyone to see but i know what you mean.
The longer the message is the more personal it becomes the shorter the more inconsequential it becomes.
You take the time to put in details that in a shorter version wouldn't have but it seems like no one has the time to take and talk about smelling the roses.
Its not just writing letters it's all aspects of communication that is slowly eroding into binary code
as i am proving right here.
Currently here in Canada they are eliminating the mailman.
No more mail will be delivered to our homes.
We will have to go pick up our mail at a designated place.
We are slowly for getting how to communicate.
We will loose reading between the lines.
Forget what a persons expression looks like when you speak face to face.
The sad part is not that we know what we are loosing but the future generations who never got to experience it.

Leah said...

I really enjoyed this post, and I'm so glad you decided to voice your thoughts on it because so much was brought back to me as I read each paragraph.

I had pen pals, not just in the UK, but in Northern Ireland, South Africa, France and United States. I have lost touch with all but my friend in the States, and we clock up our 50th year of writing this year. We email now but still recall the days of buying perfumed stationery and gleefully telling each other that the scent had survived the journey across the atlantic! I also notice these days that my handwriting has deteriorated a little, when in the past I took great care to keep it neat and tidy. That is a struggle now.

I hope you don't mind but you've inspired me to do a post on a similar subject. I will of course reference yours.

Thank you once again.

Luka Sooxter said...

Walker - I am amazed you'll be losing the mailman! What about those people who can't get to a designated collection point, like the housebound?

Luka Sooxter said...

Hi Leah, I'm so glad you enjoyed my post and hope it inspired something much better written by you! I really miss the sensual aspect of writing and receiving letters - the feel of the paper, the scent as you rightly say. An email just doesn't have the same qualities.