Nostalgic? Not So Much

I had a little Twitter/FaceBook fit the other day.

Really the ensuing conversation was on FaceBook because nobody answered me on Twitter. This is not unusual. It could be because I’m either not interesting or not important. Both things are equally true. I’m at peace with that.

Also, with Twitter, you have catch people’s eye right at that moment, or it’s gone. The Twitter stream tweets and, having tweeted, moves on: nor all thy hashtag or Google shall lure it back to show you half a line, nor all thy cut and paste remove a word of it.

I’m thinking Omar Khayyam would have loved Twitter. (Are all the classicists out there choking on their coffee in horror?) The first stanza of the Rubaiyat is only 39 characters over the requisite 140. He could have totally fit the structure. I just tweeted it in two parts, for grins.

Some people tweet the same thing multiple times each day. And not all of them are geeky annoying people. Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) does it and he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would think “I know! I’ll just tweet my blog link five times a day and annoy the hell out of people!” I feel sure some social media expert at the Sun-Times told him the correct frequency. Hell — I’m an idiot — probably some social media intern does it for him. I can’t quite bring myself to advertise my own blog more than once, but I’m a humble gal like that.

At any rate, I digress.

This post is really about friendship, but as it relates to communication.

My little fit was sparked because I received a letter from a friend. A LONG letter, on PAPER. I felt truly put upon. I complained about it on Twitter/FaceBook, in my snarky way, and asked the world at large why my friend couldn’t update me in 140-character bites like everyone else. Amusingly, my cohorts — people from my HS and college days — chimed in to agree. And several motherly friends sternly reprimanded me to remember the value of a letter. I expected them to have me writing thank-you notes next.

I understand why she wrote me a letter. She even said she thought letters are nice because they take you away from the computer. She wanted to tell me about the difficulties she’s faced in the last few years, and why she disappeared for a little while. It was a story that took time to tell.

The irony is that I read it propped on my keyboard, while discussing on FaceBook whether it’s a gift or an imposition to send someone a long letter these days.

Because, while it took time to read her letter, and I try to focus my reading time to maximize what I most want to read, the worst part was the onus that I had to write her back. On paper. By hand. And I had to do it right away because I know myself and if I didn’t do it then, it would languish on my To Do list and eventually never quite happen.

And, despite, how I probably sound, I really wanted to communicate with her. If she’s not going for electronic media, then I have to go to her.

I wrote the letter. As one of my sorority sisters predicted, my hand totally cramped up. She’d been there, too. I thought of all the authors who wrote their novels longhand. Worse, revising them longhand! (Do you suppose they cut them up and literally pasted them back together? I love this image.) I thought of my friend who has to read aloud her mother’s handwritten letters to her son, because they’re written in cursive, which he’s never learned to read or write. I thought of how I used to type my college papers directly on the typewriter, rather than writing them out and transcribing — to everyone’s horror.

Now we all do it. Erm, most of us. Keyboarding away at rapid speed.

And I’m totally at peace with that.

6 Replies to “Nostalgic? Not So Much”

  1. I had to write a letter the other day….to a long-lost New Orleans friend who managed to find my cell phone number in her recently reclaimed (post Katrina) paperwork. She said she "didn't mess with that computer stuff" but she wanted to hear from me. I typed the 2-page letter on my laptop in a pretty script, printed it out, and dropped it in the mail. It was really quite satisfying and no hand cramps.

  2. funny! several people suggested that approach. my sorority sister of the hand cramp said she once found an online application that lets you enter your handwriting and they make a font from it. But I thought writing out the letter would let my friend know I love her. despite my bitching.

  3. LOL, the image of greats like Tolstoy or Dumas (pere) cutting and sticking scraps of genius into a literary collage is … priceless.

    The Beatles' "Paperback" writer always comes to mind when I think of editing by hand, particularly the lyric "It's a thousand pages give or take a few. I'll be writing more in a week or two. I can make it longer if you like the style." Really, by hand? Even by typewriter? I'm impressed.

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