I am a horrible friend. No really, I am.
At this point, I hope all of my friends are saying, “No! You’re not a horrible friend!” to which I reply, “Aw, thanks, but when’s the last time I called you, or emailed you, or commented on your blog post?”
That might shut some of you up.
I feel like I’m getting worse at being a friend. Sometimes just setting up a coffee date feels like more trouble than it’s worth.
As any true hipster would, I’m blaming technology on this problem. It’s not me; it’s the dominant culture’s fault. Even Facebook’s new timelines seem less personal than its previous walls. My life is archived as it happens.
Granted, technology does give me more tools to keep in contact with people that might have been lost to the sands of time (or the lockers of high school), but why do I need to contact them to see what’s up when I know who they’re dating, what movies they like, and all about their vacation to California to go to their brother’s wedding?
And, I think Skype exists only to make me feel guilty for not using it.
To absolve myself of being a rotten friend, I could make every effort to find everyone I know on Skype or Google+ and set up a meticulous calendar of weekly virtual coffee dates. I could graffiti people’s timelines, clog up their inboxes, and tag everyone in random posts that come across more embarrassing than heartfelt.
That’s not fair, though, to the people who actually are with me now: my family, my coworkers, my friends who live literally blocks away who I haven’t seen in more than a month. But I don’t want to lose contact with my college friends entirely, either. I would love to take periodical spur-of-the-moment road trips to see them, and those trips wouldn’t be enjoyable if I tuned out of their lives.
My solution is to try to write more letters. (Though, as a Calvinist, I realize my solution is flawed and realized through a glass darkly, et cetera.)
Okay, so letters aren’t going to change my life, as I am not a character in an Austen novel, but they’re an enjoyable to write and to receive.
I have been exchanging letters with a friend who writes to me about her hectic grad school life while listening to records on her turntable. I write back about my ridiculous work schedule while jamming to music on The Current. I love seeing the personality in her handwriting, and I can hear her voice reading the letter.
We could be doing the exact same thing over email and saving 40-some cents on postage, but where would be the fun in that? Checking my email is a chore, unlike the days in eighth grade when my friends and I sent email for fun from addresses like madlib53 (yes, that was mine).
So that’s why I want to write more letters. In fact, I think everyone should, at the very least so that Norton Anthologies will continue to publish authors’ handwritten correspondence well into the future. (Think about it; publishing emails would not be as cool.) And if you feel bad about killing trees, think about where your hard drive will go when you’re done with it and how much energy it takes to charge your smartphone. Oh, and you can write on recycled computer paper or the unused pages at the end of your Biology 111 notebook.
To all of my friends out there: let me know if you want me to stop being a bad friend and start writing you letters, and please write me some back. Bonus points for using a quill pen.
Libby Stille (’13) lives in St. Paul and works in the marketing department of a children’s publishing company in downtown Minneapolis. She recommends that everyone visit the Twin Cities, but only between June and October, unless you enjoy subzero windchills and slipping on ice.