The fading art of letter-writing

WNYC’s Leonard Lopate caught my attention when he began this radio program about letter-writing by asking, “Can you remember the last time you sat down to write someone a letter that was more than just a note?” (My answer was: Yes! That very morning I had written a letter to my friend in Paris, even though I could have posted a note on her Facebook wall… or sent her an e-mail… or commented on her blog.)

What followed was an intriguing interview with the author of a book called Yours Ever: People and their Letters, which discusses the loss of these social and historical artifacts. Thomas Mellon, who has also written about diary-keeping, said he started this project 15 years ago when e-mail was just nascent. It evolved into an “elegy” to the genre, he said — which suggests that he thinks letter-writing is dead, though perhaps not beyond resuscitation.

Some other questions Lopate could have posed: Do you think that you’ll be re-reading old e-mails, text messages and Facebook posts some day in your golden years? Will your children be able to browse through your e-mails after you’re gone, to see what their parents were like as younger people? Are future scholars likely to delve into your old digital messages and revel in the valuable insights they offer?