Is it time for letter-writing to make a comeback?

By: Dr Anna Martin

When was the last time you put pen to paper to compose a handwritten letter to a loved one? With the advent of new technologies and the ability to connect instantly through email, text or messenger, the art of letter writing is slowly becoming a relic of a bygone era.

While letter writing for some evokes memories of childhood pen pals or teenage love letters, it’s a form of communication that still has its place.

Take Walter and Adele of Stonefields, Auckland. Married for almost 60 years with three children and seven grandchildren scattered across New Zealand and Australia, how they communicate with their family has changed over the years, however the grandparents still enjoy staying in touch through handwritten and email newsletters.

When distance precludes face-to-face communication, a handwritten letter is a very personal way to stay connected. Composing a thoughtful letter takes more time and effort than simply typing a few brief words and hitting the send button, so the message is often more considered and meaningful.

While lengthy handwritten letters may be unrealistic for many time poor Kiwis, a simple handwritten note can convey a message in a much more intimate way than an email or text ever could. A handwritten thank you or a condolence message in particular will always have a greater impact than a message sent electronically.

A letter might also reduce anxiety, potentially caused by digital communication, for both the sender and recipient. Who hasn’t been guilty of staring at the screen waiting anxiously on a response, or feeling the pressure to provide an immediate answer to a message or email? Sending or receiving a letter changes the context of communication. In essence, the rules of engagement change, which often makes the experience more pleasurable and enriching and allows the recipient to really appreciate and take in the substance of the message, knowing the thought and effort the sender put into composing it.

Before dismissing letter writing as an antiquated undertaking, it can be easily incorporated into our contemporary way of life. Creating a private blog which can only be viewed by family or friends is a very modern interpretation of a traditional letter.

While email, text and messenger remain a more convenient and immediate method of communication, particularly when connecting with the younger generation, the slower method of our past still has an important place in our communication repertoire. I encourage all Kiwis to reflect on how they communicate and to consider the importance of validation and connection when responding to loved ones.

To learn more about Walter and Adele’s story, and to hear other Kiwis have a #GoodChat with Dr Anna about how they communicate with their loved ones, listen to our podcast here.

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