Apparently in Victorian London there was such a demand for post that in some areas it was delivered up to twelve times per day. Whilst that might not quite be true today, letter writing, book swapping, and online impulse purchases have all become much more common within the past year. Like many others, I am now on a first name basis with my postie, and all the other local delivery drivers. The surge of analogue mail, as apposed to its digital counterparts is somewhat of a surprise. So why have we turned back the clocks of time to embrace such an archaic mode of communication?
There is of course a lot to be said for the personal touch of letter writing. A handwritten letter or notecard is a real expression of affection; each scratch of ink a mark of love. However well composed a text message may be it simply cannot express the same level of intimacy. Each word has been thoughtfully orchestrated to gather and perform a literary symphony, unlike a meme sent on whatsapp in hast. With a lack of social interaction we seek tenderness and intimacy in whatever form we can get it, and the rustling of paper in the letterbox signals a pretty reliable next hit.
Yearning for yesteryear, we seem to have gone back to a time before the Internet rather than the glory years of circa 2016. In lives where we live and work almost wholly online, it is refreshing to exist in the real world, even if just in the format of an A4 piece of paper. We romanticise the pastimes of bygone eras despite their flaws because we want to experience that swelling anticipation of waiting for a reply. Unlike being ghosted on Tinder we know a response is on the way, however long it may take. Even as a gen z there is a sense of nostalgia, the years of the post arriving before leaving for school not completely forgotten. Sending postcards from Skegness, and submissions to children’s magazines and TV programmes still a blurred memory somewhere in our minds.
Of course in our hyper capitalistic world we are also unable to resist the urge of online sales, special discounts, and a good old-fashioned bargain. But even more exciting we now treasure the human interaction with our delivery drivers. It doesn’t matter if they are particularly pleasant or a grumpy old man, they are now our most valued acquaintances and confidants, probably knowing a little too much about our purchasing history too.
Amongst the smudged ink and tatty envelopes is a great joy. A bundle of letters is not just physical correspondence between two people, but a conscious sharing of our most vulnerable cerebral selves. In response to what has been probably the most isolating time in people lives it is understandable that we renewed one of the most personal forms of communication.