On Letters

The personal letter must die, and I will help kill it.

Cooper Thomason, 26 November 2018

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   Though the advent of the phone, email, and text message has been roundly praised across the world (and become ubiquitous in public education), there are still some who claim that the handwritten personal letter should not be abandoned. The arguments for and against personal letters are many, but it seems clear to me that those who laud the merits of the personal letter are Luddites with only a few meager talking points. The letter may be useful as an artifact, but it is less efficient than other forms of communication to such a significant degree as to make it obsolete. Public schooling in technology has planted the seed of a dream in my heart and nurtured it out of infancy. Every email sent, essay submitted, and meeting coordinated has fortified my dream, transforming it into a steadfast desire. The personal letter must die, and I will help kill it.

   Letters are useful as tangible evidence of correspondence. The corporeal nature of the letter makes it well suited for long-term storage. Physical copies of a letter containing heartfelt exchanges between the patriarch and matriarch of a sizeable family could be easily maintained for posterity or distributed among relatives, but electronic copies of such exchanges may be more difficult to maintain due to the tendency of computers to malfunction or write over old data. Record keeping is the primary advantage of a letter, but it does not outweigh the disadvantages.

  Personal letters are less efficient than virtually every other modern form of communication. It often takes days or weeks for a letter to arrive at its destination. During this time, the circumstances of both the writer and recipient will surely change, making the content of the letter outdated. Compare this with instant messaging via email, text, or social media. A new mother could alert her entire family of the birth of her child within minutes with a simple Facebook post or mass text.

  Letters are not only slower but also more costly. To write a letter, a stamp, an envelope, paper, and a trip to the post office are all required. Stamps cost as little as forty-seven cents. However, envelopes could cost as much as twenty dollars per box, and a ream of paper will cost almost seven dollars. Not only has the writer borne a financial burden sending the letter, but also the environment has been damaged. Paper and envelopes must be harvested from the very trees which are crucial to our planet’s ecosystem. Emails, on the other hand, may be sent as many times as one wishes without spending any extra money or harming any trees.

  Though the personal letter may be cherished as a relic of the past, it should be abandoned due to its inefficiency. Many cling to their dated customs, but society (propelled by individuals such as myself) marches onward to a more sophisticated future, to healthier future, and to a future where the personal letter is dead. It is unfortunate that some drag their feet.

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