THE LOST ART OF LETTER WRITING
I started young adulthood solo in California when everyone I knew resided in my small Midwestern hometown. Writing letters filled loneliness for the familiar as I pursued my dreams. Because I continued to travel from one end of the globe to another over the passing years, I added new friends to the letter exchange.
In 1985 I graduated to computer communication as a programmer and continued in that vein for several years, eventually leaving programming language behind for new dream pursuits. I also stopped writing letters. Letters stopped coming to my post office boxes. Instead, I communicated through list serves and early group and Internet communication systems. Time to write real letters dissipated.
However, all those letters I wrote while residing in foreign countries were apparently more interesting to my family and friends than I knew. I mentioned to my email list that I’d begun publishing short stories. Suddenly, my old letters came flowing back. I received boxes of letters—from those written in Germany on that thin, blue airmail paper to those from Asia on elegant rice paper. They were a treasure beyond price, exploring the experiences of a young woman on her own in Belmont Shore to those of a mature woman meeting challenges solo on a 67-foot yacht in the Bahamas.
Today, nobody saves my emails. Ten years of blogging also disappeared from Redroom.com when they merged with Wattpad, another blogging venue. Internet and Dropbox “clouds” save words that are sent to the universe rather than to just a few intimate friends. Instead of taking pen in hand and letting words flow in third-grade script, I discovered that handwriting is obsolete. No one is admired for her beautiful script anymore.
From my perspective, I lost a bit of the romance with language associated with the art of letter writing. I now accumulate “friends” I’ve never hugged or met over coffee, a potentially infinite list that will never save my words.
I’ve finally accepted the fact that an Internet communication is immediate, impossible to stop and available to the world. It pays to carefully consider words, not in the process of writing them but rather before they become electronic. Ever accidentally punched the “send” button? Maybe Facebook is adding a pause feature but, mostly, words travel to their destination. No mailbox rescues are possible.
On the compensating side is the plethora of available information about everything. No limits seem to exist regarding who may set up their personal online diary (web log equals “blog”) or the subjects they may include. Thus, instead of writing letters mailed to friends across the globe, a daily diary for which they have the Internet location keeps them informed in print, video, and live—no paper, no pen, no stamps and no delay.
Publishers strongly recommend blogging and providing readers with “useful” information so they will become “followers.” Thus I have “friends” and “followers” in this new world of blogs, twitter and Facebook.
“Useful” information takes blogs to the next level. With everyone writing, with no limits on subjects or content, and instant search through Internet search engines, how do we discern the difference between “useful information” and fanciful blogging that’s not much better than gossiping?
The impact of this question opens a Pandora’s box of journalistic issues for the next Scoop. Do bloggers sometimes lead the way in bringing key information to the public with mainstream media following their lead? Or do mainstream bloggers react to already published material? Where is the line between biased gossip or commentary and fact-finding, old-school journalism? Who vets the credentials of bloggers and do they matter? Who fact checks? Where do we get information that we trust whether it’s encyclopedic data or current events? When electronic communication is without limits and most news of the day is influenced by advertising, where are “just the facts”?
Do you have something on your mind that you want to share?
Send your Member Musings to Penny Fisher at Penny.Fisher@naplesnews.com. Contributions are welcome.