GUC: Art of letter writing should be revived
Opinions Column: Macro to Micro
In recent years, the phrase "instant gratification" is being used more in daily speech rather than as simply a term within the usual spheres of psychological science. Critics of millennials complain that our generation constantly seeks the results of efforts — or even their lack of efforts — immediately. They also believe that we are being shaped into impatient and superficial human beings through the use of our technology that offers immediate access to a plethora of information at a finger’s touch. I do not doubt that these may be true. However, I am not so much concerned as to whether the constant commentary of the older generations will prove to be accurate as I am a part of this millennial culture. I do find it to be true that along with a desire for immediate gratification whether it be for food, information or television shows, there is a sense of urgency that our lifestyles demand. Texts need to be answered within the hour. Emails give the leniency of one, maybe two days. Social media and different applications are constantly bombarding us with notifications. All of these various modes of communication are presenting the idea that one must answer, respond and address all incoming messages immediately — as the person on the other end awaits anxiously. With the ease smartphones offer, this is all possible of course. However, not only do our devices make it possible, they also transform such convenience into a mandatory duty. There is no excuse to be unresponsive assuming one’s phone is not dead. Whether a message is from one's friend circle or from a coworker, a late reply is not to be tolerated lest it be accompanied with apologetic phrases and words.
It can be immensely tiring to participate in this culture of urgency in communication. It is understandable that certain projects and ideas may hold deadlines that require such urgency, yet more times than not, it is simply unnecessary. The mere possibility of reaching another individual at any given moment is what perpetuates such a culture and leads one to carry the expectation of an immediate response. If one could not so easily inform another of any particular news as is made possible by devices today, perhaps the lifestyle we are all deeply trenched in would also change. The pacing with which we carry ourselves might be a step or two slower which is not necessarily a bad thing.
I, for example, am an ardent supporter of the art of letter writing. It brings me immense pleasure to allocate specific time to sit, take out a piece of blank paper and write with an actual pen — fountain pens being my particular preference. My handwritten letters tend to be more thoughtful, less hurried and succinct yet heavier in content than any of my rushed emails or carelessly sent texts. Most of the time, nowadays, when I write a letter to another, it is rare to receive any sort of response in letter form. The recipient might send me an email or message thanking me for the letter instead, and noting their lack of decent handwriting — which, mind you, I severely lack in myself — as reason for not reciprocating in the same manner. And that's absolutely fine because more often than not letters do more service to the one writing than the one receiving them. Handwriting a letter allows one to be more careful in their wording, ponder in a more relaxed state of how to articulate a certain idea, and can evoke certain sentiments in a more tangible manner as the paper the addressee receives has been touched and handled directly by the one whose words are inked upon it. Nevertheless, there are few joys that I cherish as much as finding a physical letter in the mail addressed to yourself that is not a utility bill or bank statement. Knowing that another individual took the time to go through the process of writing, sealing, and mailing turns any flimsy envelope into a prized possession to be saved for years to come.
The burden of feeling impelled to give immediate responses appears to me as an overriding plague of our time. It transforms any simple text or notification into a source of anxiety. Call it a necessity or even the standard mode of communication amongst humans — it still enforces a culture of immediacy. Write me a physical letter instead and let me take a few weeks — even months to respond.
Aysenur Guc is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in philosophy. Her column,"Macro to Micro," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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