Wednesday, 13 April 2011

To write or to type?

I wrote a letter this morning. It's been a while. In my late teens I was notorious for writing notes and scribble to various friends (some utterly cringeworthy and have in recent years been destroyed by the recipients; for this I am glad). My oldest friend and I have exchanged letters since we were about five, and continue to do so as it seems to be the only way we are ever able to stay connected, regardless of having each other's phone numbers. I won't go into detail as to the subject of this morning's letter, but instead take a minute to appreciate the act.

In the process of contemplating this, I came across a website called Letters of Note, a beautiful archive full of correspondance, some even dating back to hundreds of years ago. Not only are there the expected letters of love and loss, telegrams and faxes are also thrown into the mix, but for now I might ignore these (as sympathetic as I am towards Pearl Harbour and the Titanic, the telegrams announcing the commencement of each disaster are not the inspiration of this post).

I am interested in the hand-written exchanges, once personal and now displayed all over the web, between intimate lovers and friends. Nosey eh? The first I came across on this website still remains my favourite, even after much browsing. It takes a while to read, but the account of Aldous Huxley's death, written by his wife Laura to his older brother Julian, is an incredible insight into the end of a life.

Just take a second to consider if this will ever be the case for the email. Do you think there will ever be an 'Emails of Note' website, dedicated to the conversings via the world wide web? Doesn't really have the same charm about it does it?

A letter just seems so much more intimate; the combustable, tanglible and delicate packaging of these words remind you of it's mortality. When you delete an email from your inbox, it is fed into a 'deleted items' folder. The delete button is only the first step towards destroying those words, and you have to consciously go into a 'deleted items' folder and eradicate them all for eternity. If a piece of paper were to be destroyed, it would not be possible to pick up the ashes and read them again.

Emails seem so more off-the-cuff. Genuine thought and consideration goes into a letter, with time taken to ensure it is legible and clear. Often littered with edits and scribbles, a letter portrays the writer's thought process in it's creation. I don't know if anyone can really say they have put their heart and soul into an email as much as they might do a hand-written exchange.

I guess it also links to our awareness of the internet and it's public nature. Whilst our email inbox is protected via our password, it still doesn't seem to entirely belong to us, and I always get the feeling that anyone could stumble upon my online correspondance.

Having said that, it's easier to hack into a bed-side table to find a letter than a computer to read an email.

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