In the mail. A written letter.
My sweet friend in NY actually took time out of her day, sat down, and got a hand cramp for me.
It made my day. I sat down immediately to write her back because the novelty of actually seeing my own handwriting was too hard to pass up.
And I noticed something.
Since I had to write down what I wanted to tell her (instead of clipping away at 90 wpm on my keyboard) I only wrote down what I really wanted her to know. I didn't waste time with writing nonsense, I actually thought about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to convey it with pen and paper.
And then I started thinking about that.
Do you remember the days of pen pals? Before we had email (I think I started using email around age 12 or so), did you have a little friend you wrote to occasionally? I had a few growing up. I used to put so much thought into what I would write, what my handwriting looked like (I always got C's in handwriting in school), and which Lisa Frank stickers I would use to decorate the borders and envelope. I felt so accomplished when I could write my buddy's address from memory. I checked the mail in anticipation every day.
I had a revival of writing letters when I worked at a church camp as counselor for two summers. It was before texting was an acceptable form of communication, before Facebook, and the only methods camp staff had to keep in contact were letters and the occasional bad cell phone service weekend call. I wrote consistently with my boyfriend at the time, and many, many campers who were so excited to write to their counselor. We had to sing for our mail at lunch in front of all the staff and campers. Good times.
I haven't written many letters since. I'm a firm believer in thank-you notes, sure. But really sat down and wrote a letter to someone, just because? I can't remember the last time I have done that.
I have this theory about social media, and what it is doing to our relationships today. Since we moved away from our family and friends and church a year and a half ago, that theory has only been tested and proven viable.
Facebook makes pretend relationships. It is fake "keeping up." It gives people the opportunity (especially if you don't monitor your ever changing privacy settings) to e-stalk and have almost a voyeuristic glimpse into your life without any responsibility on their part to actually talk to you about it.
When I went back to Greenville for the first time after we moved away, I would be asked questions or someone would comment on something that I did from what they had seen on Facebook or my blog. But how often did it also occur that that person was someone who had taken the time to email me, call me, text me, anything me? Ten times out of ten they hadn't reached out at all. But they knew all about my life. They felt good about themselves because they knew what was going on and could talk to me about it in person, but they didn't truly care enough to send me a message and ask how things were going. Their well-intentioned comments and questions only succeeded in making me feel very alone.
I'll be honest. I'm terrible at keeping in contact with people. I do try - I call the people I really want to talk to and really, really try to be consistent about it. I blame the three-hour time difference, busy lives, and my laziness (not necessarily in that order). I'll also say that I'm not one to talk about poking around on Facebook and reading people's blogs and not taking the time to comment or write an email.
But what I'm saying is: how do we find a balance between enjoying social media and actually maintaining real relationships? When we are casually "keeping track" of friends and family using Facebook, do we then have a responsibility to reach out through other mediums and truly make meaningful contact with them? I don't really know. But I think my letter-writing friend in NY had a good idea of where to start.