Monday
Apr022012

The Lost Art of Letters

In our hyper-connected society of texting and Twitter, we've never had easier access to each other, but our relationships have never before been more superficial and empty. All of this social media leaves us vulnerable to attack from people we think we can trust and people we really should be able to trust. Many people seem to lose all sense of tact and etiquette when they can hide behind a keyboard and soulless screen.

Even trusted friends and relatives can unknowingly turn into "trolls", which is really just another word for bullies, and can be far more hurtful than the attacks we expect from strangers.

When writing in a public sphere, even just leaving an innocent comment on someone's post opens us up to attack. No matter how carefully we choose our words and phrase our thoughts, someone can and will take offense. We can control who sees what we post on our own accounts, but have little to no control over who sees our comments on someone else's account. People in the cyber world seem unable to mind their own business and ignore things said in conversations that have little, if anything, to do with them.

Between these vulnerabilities and the over-extended feeling I get from trying to keep up with everyone, I have been less and less involved with online communication outside of emails and private messages. I have even taken a week-long social media vacation, in which, for an entire week, I had absolutely no involvement whatsoever with any social media sites. It was one of the most relaxed, peaceful and productive weeks I've had in a very long time.

Another benefit to reducing my time spent on social media websites is that I have increased the number of pen pals I have. I have always loved receiving personal mail. Ever since I had my first pen pal in the third grade, I have always had someone to correspond with.

Receiving letters in the mail is a simple joy, and the anticipation of waiting for something to arrive in the mailbox is akin to waiting for Christmas. I just participated in something of a letter-writing revival and have written letters to friends and colleagues almost every day for the last week.

One simple letter provides a much deeper connection than years of social media contact. Like in an email or private message, I can use my natural voice and not have to guard what I say. I can be relaxed and silly and worry only about the judgement of one person, which is infinitely easier than trying to please the universe.

Writing letters, or snail mail -- as the kids are calling it these days -- goes beyond the openness of a personal conversation and carries a certain amount of charm and nostalgia that I find refreshing. Combined with the anticipation of receiving the next letter, it's quickly becoming one of my preferred modes of communication.

Of course, letter writing today pales in comparison to the days when it was the primary mode of communication. I think of the letters I've read in school between some of the great minds of the last few centuries, the great debates held within, and I begin to feel a little embarrassed about my rambling scrawl full of doodles.

Still, I guess it's still above the vapid tweets of the cyberverse.

Wednesday
Mar282012

To Blog or Not to Blog...

I've toyed with the idea of blogging here for quite some time. I've been blogging in one form or another for about a decade now, but I've never had much to say. I've kept online journals as a means to keep up with friends and family, in the days before Twitter and Facebook, and now I use them in spite of social media.

But I doubt anyone visiting this site cares much about what my daughter is up to, the dogs' latest tricks, or what's going on in my garden.

Blogging seems to be the latest trend in the business of freelance editing and writing. So, yes. I will blog here. I will give it a try, anyway.

Part of the reason I didn't start blogging sooner was that I didn't know what to write about. I do a lot of writing and reading, either for fun or work, and I'm going to save this place for my thoughts on all things bookish. I'm always involved with books one way or another. I'm always reading or writing something.

Another reason I didn't blog here sooner was that blogging can take up a lot of time. In an industry where everything has to be highly polished and every word chosen carefully, even a simple blog becomes a lot of work. Despite being busy, I'm going to take up the blog challenge.

Lately, my reading material has reflected my time-crunch and I've primarily been reading magazines: SkyNews and National Geographic. My NatGeo subscription is new, though I've coveted it for quite some time. I'm beyond pleased and look forward to reading about the Titanic. I flipped through the photo section already and the photos are compelling, to say the least.

I've been subscribed to SkyNews since I was in high school (I've always been a bit of an astronomy junkie), and have started using it to plan vacations. For instance, we often take trips to Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula because the entire region is a dark sky preserve and the stargazing is phenomenal. In August, one of our trips north will coincide with the peak of a meteor shower (the Perseids, if you're interested).

I often read fiction, particularly novels, but lately -- outside of work at least -- I've been reading short stories and magazine articles. They're shorter and easier to get through, and I've been busy and distracted since the winter holidays, so short genres provide the right kind of material.

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