Dear Letters on the Internet,
You have become quite popular lately. Good for you. Every blogger and internet sensation knows how to work your format into a manifesto of anger or forgiveness or inspiration–whatever they so choose. You are malleable, flexible, like a rubber band that can encompass any hurt or joy or frustration that needs to be voiced into the abyss of the internet. But is that your purpose?
At age 12 I went to counseling, because my teenage angst had found the darker chasm of my family depression and my mom saw it in my eyes. Girls are just mean at that age. We are all so awkward and uncomfortable, squirming in our own skin till our words get caught in our throats, stopping at the Adam’s apple of original sin to remind us we live in a broken world. The words lodge in there, choked in a traffic jam of insecurity.
The counselor told me to write a letter to my friend that had hurt me. I didn’t have to give it to her, it would just be good for me to get the words out somehow. I loathed the idea, feeling like pen and paper were some kind of condolence for an unfixable world of heartbreak. Why couldn’t I just say it to her face? I don’t actually remember if I ever did either.
So I know why you work. Letters to a daughter, a father, the gunman who shot down our humanity, the bomber who broke up our security, and the other party who tries to sweep all this pain under the rug of politics–you have something to say.
But you letters–I wonder–do you ever make it to the ear drums of your target? Or is that not your main concern? Perhaps are you really speaking to everyone else out there, the commentators and cyber-space refugees, anyone else who will listen? What about the name on the first line–is it only mail to be returned to sender, or do you actually find your way to them?
It’s not you, letters on the internet, it’s me. Because I am a believer in your art form, your inherent design, the written word where pen and paper no longer become a condolence but instead a conversation about truth. You are more than a flimsy rubber band, because rubber bands may keep things contained but they also leave imprints of a pressured constraint.
No, you can be so much more. You can be the dove that actually brings its olive branch to a shipwrecked soul, you can find your way (granted USPS actually delivers) to the heart that has forgotten what grace is, and your words can escape the trappings of sidebars and search engines to find a face–eyes, ears, nose, and mouth–that needs to feel you directly in front of it.
Oh my letters, oh my stars, can’t you join together to remember the beauty of being created? Created for a hands-on-blind-eyes kind of impact, where you are directed not to the ears of the internet, but to the sole one who you are speaking to through an envelope in the fingertips or reverberations that make their way past the Adam’s apple and into the space between two bodies.
I know you work sometimes, and there is an element of community when the multitudes can share these words together. But I fear you’ve forgotten your ancestral heritage of jail-cell letters written to a specific audience, over-seas communication between kindred minds and hearts, or the simple lunch box note to remind someone they are loved. Because that’s what we all need to hear–that we are loved.
But I’m convinced that the avenue of communication is crucial, because you lose pieces of your sincerity when you have to travel through the woods of the internet and leave a trail of crumbs to find your way back. But when all you need to do is pass within the same walls as your target, when all you need to do is intentionally travel from one inbox to one other, when all you need to do is be purposefully labelled with one return address and one destination–the words can hold all their original weight and meaning.
Let’s be honest about our intentions, and intentional about where we direct our honest opinions. Communication builds community. The internet is a helpful tool, a highway maybe, but we can’t forget the value of words spoken face to face, snail mail sentiments, and even the things that are spoken between two people in the same space without any words at all.