Do you long for the days before tech?

05 Aug 2011


When was the last time you sent or received a handwritten letter? It could be from a far-flung aunt or to an old schoolmate… or just a kooky way for you to interact with someone you see on a weekly basis.

How long has it been since you sent a letter to a friend?

However long it’s been, one San Francisco art director decided it had been too long for too many people.

So he set up a small, month-long community project for people to email him a short message, which he would then handwrite and post on to the recipient.

High demand

Ivan Cash hoped to get around five to 10 requests a week from people looking to revive letter writing. But demand has forced him to take on 134 volunteers and the project sent out 2,300 letters in the first fortnight.

Although Ivan’s project is due to close on August 15, it’s clear that people still value someone taking the time to write them a letter.

Perhaps it’s that they find emails too impersonal or throwaway, whereas a whipping your pen out to sit down and write a letter takes real effort.

Similar criticisms of technology leaving people feeling cold have been levelled at television and mobile phones in the past.

TV dinners in particular have attracted criticism. Gone are the wholesome days of families sitting around the table each evening to enjoy dinner together, instead we sit with plates on our laps, quickly shovelling food with our eyes fixated on the box.

Human interaction

Meanwhile, instead of meeting with friends, we’re telephoning and chatting on Facebook. It’s just not quite true human interaction.

Projects like the Snail Mail My Email one are quirky and do raise valid points about how impersonal modern technology can make our lives at times.

But it’s important that while we’re getting all misty-eyed about the good ol’ days of letter writing and the family gathering around a piano on a Sunday afternoon for a sing-song, we should remember why we moved onto new technology in the first place.

It’s nice to receive mail (especially when it’s not a gas bill), but sending post doesn’t quite have the same novelty value. There’s the time it takes to actually get your pen out, the cost of posting a letter and then waiting for it to be delivered.

Similarly, the idea of getting together with a friend to meet face-to-face is nice, but in reality it can be tricky.

While we sometimes long for the days before technology took over so much of our social lives, in reality it’s now necessary to at least do the organisational footwork for us.

Technology will always have the instant reach which old fashioned methods couldn’t offer. But if you’ve got the time to settle down and write a letter, and the message isn’t urgent, then Ivan Cash’s project is an example that it is still much appreciated.

Do you long for the days before technology? Comment below or tweet @DixonsinTheKnow