GOOD

Digital Makeover: Send an Analog Email (AKA a Letter) #30DaysofGOOD

Sit down with a pen and paper and handwrite a message to a friend or family member.

30 Days of GOOD (#30DaysofGOOD) is our monthly attempt to live better. This month we're focused on improving the way we use technology.


This weekend's Digital Makeover task encourages you to step away from the computer and go offline with something you'd normally do using technology. Your project between now and Sunday is to send someone an analog email—also known as "a letter."

Yep, sit down with a pen and paper and handwrite a message to a friend or family member. Then pack it up in an envelope, address it, stamp it, and put it one of those blue boxes you sometimes see out on streetcorners. Crazy stuff, I know.

Why? To remember what it's like to connect with people in a way that requires slowness and more deliberation. While many of us spend a good portion of our days sending messages to people (via email, text, chat, and the like), so much of our electronic correspondence feels temporary and tossed off. In a recent editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle's John Diaz expands on this idea and argues for the importance of letter writing:

Neither a thousand tweets nor an e-mail of any length can quite match the power or poignancy of a handwritten letter. … You are giving the recipient your most valuable asset: your undivided attention. You also are providing a keepsake. Friends and family members may cherish a Facebook wall post or a thoughtful text, but neither will ever end up in a drawer of personal treasures.

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There aren't many rules for this task. Just write a letter and drop it in the mail. But if you feel like you would benefit from a little assistance, take a look at the links below.

Looking for letter-writing inspiration? Take it from some of the world's best. Back around Valentine's Day, Fast Company's Co.Design compiled handwritten love letters from notable people ranging from Frida Kahlo to Michael Jordan.

If you're like me, years of typing has taken its toll on your handwriting skills. (I started writing my letter for this task earlier today, and I realized that I was so out of practice that my hand actually hurt after just a few senstences!) Luckily, eHow has a good list of instructions and practical tips for improving your penmanship.

Then check out handwrittenletters.com, where you'll find a history of letters (did you know that postage stamps first came into use in the 1840s?), an image gallery of letters from throughout the years, and a variety of videos that will help you become a master of written correspondence.

Once you've finished your letter this weekend, you may find that you enjoyed it so much that you want to send more. But who to write to? There are many sites devoted to helping you find pen pals from all over the world. WikiHow has a handy guide to finding new friends that you can keep up your letter-writing habit with.

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