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  • Genine Babakian

Facebook Hubbub Opens Door for Letter Writers

To delete or not to delete Facebook? The hubbub of the latest controversy implicating the social media giant is everywhere: “Facebook’s worst crisis yet; Congress calls on Facebook CEO to testify; Zuckerberg now admitting Facebook screwed up.”

Sorting through the news, I am weighing my own future with Facebook. There would be some pangs of withdrawal, for sure. But I doubt the separation would be as difficult as some propose. “How else do you keep in touch with friends and family?” the New York Times cited in a Personal Tech column enumerating our dependence on the social media platform.

I can think of ways.

There is email, of course, and texting. Even the telephone. But today I want to focus on another – and far more endangered – form of communication. Writing letters.

When’s the last time you got a handwritten letter in the mail? When’s the last time you sent one? Sharpen those pencils and flex those fingers: National letter-writing month is about to begin.

National letter-writing month was launched in 2001 by the United States Postal Service. This may appear self-serving, but I’m okay with that. Do we really want the U.S. postal service to go out of business? The official campaign sets the bar pretty low, calling for everyone to send one card or letter during the month of April. One letter a month! Are we all barbarians? I decided to up the ante: one letter a day. Starting April 1, I vow to send at least one item through the post every day of the month.

I’ll write cousins, high school friends and college roommates. In-laws and old neighbors. I’ll send thank-you notes and thinking of you messages and good luck cards. I will write to my children, including a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and directions to the nearest mailbox. And why limit myself to friends and family? I’ll write elected officials and teachers. I’ll write perfect strangers.

In fact, there are plenty of opportunities to brighten someone’s day with an unexpected, handwritten note. Last week I learned about a pen pal program run by First Friends of New Jersey and New York. This non-profit operates on a shoestring budget to uphold the dignity (and spirits) of detained immigrants and asylum seekers. And there are multiple organizations that match letter-writers with service members overseas, who long for a card or package from home.

I’m excited about this opportunity to rekindle friendships and forge new connections. And while I am sending without the anticipation of a response, I will certainly cherish any letters that do come my way.

A few years ago, my elderly father had to move out of his house. Suddenly. My brothers and I sorted through our family home of half a century, packing, donating, selling, discarding. When my father thinks about the contents of his now demolished home, here’s what he wonders about: the love letters my mother sent him. Now I’ve got my first letter-writing project: to find those love letters and send them to my Dad.

A Facebook post can be witty, informative, polarizing. But it does not have the lasting value of pen on paper. So, who’s with me? A letter a day in April? I look forward to reporting back on this month-long experiment.

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