notebook with pen pal letters
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Perks of Having a Pen Pal

The average age when a child receives a cell phone is now just 10 years old. By the age of 13, 50 percent of these children also create social media accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. When young children become so enthralled in social media and their cell phones, they lose various other ways of communicating. They stop making phone calls and interacting face to face, because why would you call someone when you can text them in 30 seconds? The way I connected with friends during my childhood (I’m a ’97 baby) and the ways kids do today is an entire world apart.

My favorite form of reaching someone is so ancient it may soon collapse into dust: writing letters. Again, emails deem this old-fashioned act as completely outdated and irrelevant. An email can zip around the world in a matter of seconds, whereas a letter can take days or even weeks to be delivered. Most of the letters that people receive now are bills, which doesn’t exactly make checking the mail fun. If that’s the case, I don’t even want a mailbox.

Luckily for me, I always have a reason to look forward to checking the mail. When I was about 10 years old, and in a ridiculously intense tomboy phase (observe terrifying photo below), I went camping in upstate New York and befriended a girl my age at the campsite next door. We went on hikes, attempted to swim in the morbidly freezing lake, played cards, and laughed by the fire until our parents told us it was time for bed.

Sadly, our week at the campground had come and gone, but we still wanted to stay in touch. The only cell phones around at the time were similar the indestructible hunk of metal that is the Nokia, so we decided to stay in touch via writing letters. Almost 11 years later, through different high schools, changing friend groups, questionable fashion phases, heartbreaks, and, now, our final year of college, Christine and I still keep in touch. At one point, I even went up to visit. That was in 2011, seven years ago now (what?!?!).

Granted, sometimes our responses are slow as we begin attempting to transition into being full-time adults. Key word: attempting. Nevertheless, writing a letter and getting a response will always be worth the time. Our letters over the years have taught me endless lessons, and here are just a few:

Pen pals teach you responsibility. It may sound strange saying that writing a letter teaches you to be responsible, but it really does. In the digital age, we have alarms and reminders to help us stay on track. When writing a letter, we have to take the time to sit down and physically hand write a response. It may be more time consuming than writing an email, but it’s nice to know that the letter you are reading is personal. That person took time out of their day to sit down and write to you!

Friendship knows no boundaries. No matter where you go in the world, you can always find a pen and paper. Sure, cell phones help us take care of this problem too, but when was the last time you received a card from someone who went abroad? When you get a postcard from a foreign country, it is something you will cherish for the rest of your life. Just because our lives change and we go different places, doesn’t mean we have to lose our connections.

Helps with reading and writing skills. Since I started writing letters to Christine at a young age, it helped my reading and writing skills tremendously. I didn’t always want to do my homework, but when it came to responding to a letter, I immediately dashed over to my desk. For younger children, having a pen pal is a great way to create a positive attitude towards writing.

Builds memories and bonds that will last a lifetime. If you told me that I’d keep in touch with a random girl I met while camping almost 11 years ago, I’d probably think you were demented. But here we are. We’ve written endless letters, and I’ve even driven up for a visit. The relationships that we build in life are so important, and taking the time to write a meaningful letter is so much more rewarding to receive and send than a text message that takes thirty seconds to compose.

I really can’t emphasize how important I think writing letters is. It gives your message a personal touch, and means that you care enough about someone to sit down and take the time out of your day to stay connected. Take a step back from our overwhelming cyber world and venture back into the world of pen and paper.

If you’re feeling motivated to start writing, here are a few websites that can help you get started!

PenPal World is a free website that lets you create a profile and find people you’d potentially like to write to. Initial communication begins on the website to ensure that you are comfortable talking to them, and from there you can move to sending letters or writing emails.

International Pen Friends is another cite, and although there is a small membership fee, many claim that this is the best website to use. This cite matches you to people based on detailed questions and other information, like which country you would like to write to and receive letters from.

Student Letter Exchange focuses more on the younger audience, ages 9-20, who are looking to enter the pen pal world. This is a great option for younger children and students.

Now pick up that pen and get writing!

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