Is there anything sweeter than coming home to find a letter in the mailbox?
Not a bill, an invoice, or junk mail. Not even an invitation. But a handwritten letter, stamped and sealed by a loved one.
It’s a rare thing to receive such a letter. Who out there is writing them? Why would anyone spend time writing to someone when you can
talk text Snapchat them instantly through your phone or Internet? Why revert to quaint times and spend money on stationary to write a little old letter, when you can broadcast yourself via video, to whoever you like, any time you like.
In 2014, Australia Post lost money for the first time in more than 30 years. Half-yearly profit fell by 56 per cent; the letters section losing $151 million. At the start of 2016 stamp prices increased to $1 each, to break even.
It seems highly unlikely that the postal letter service will disappear entirely – nostalgia is a strong force and there is an ever-increasing value being placed on the physical. Heartfelt condolences can often only be expressed through snail mail. Children will still want to send letters to Santa. Yet it’s not not certain that people will start writing letters en masse again.
eBooks aren’t taking over real books (eBook sales have dropped off big time while traditional book sales have increased), vinyl record sales outsell digital music in many countries. But online communications have well and truly usurped the handwritten letter, and perhaps have for the rest of time. Unless the Internet master controls are unplugged, the convenience and speed of online communication will ensure our world keeps progressing at a rapid pace, and will keep the need for letters at bay.
With slower postal times, expensive postage and not enough time on our hands, the humble letter may be one of the most precious things we have left in this hare-footed digital age we inhabit. It’s also a gesture that’s up to each of us to preserve.
Perhaps we just need to be shown how to go about this letter writing business again.
Our library has an impressive collection of books that provide letter templates, words for all occasions, starting a pen pal relationship and the art of personal correspondence.
Just think, if you take the time to write someone a letter, chances are one day there will be a letter in the mail box waiting for you.