Back in the days when we were Internet-less, we relied on a more traditional way of communicating: the good ol’ pen and paper combination. From making friends by replying to an advert in a newspaper to partaking in a foreign exchange program in school, the idea of pen pals was all the rage back then – until the rise of World Wide Web.
Nowadays, we’re all mobile-centric – attached to our plethora of devices to communicate quicker and cheaper than ever before. So with all our smartphones, laptops and tablets at our disposal, why should we give up this model of instant gratification? Simple – this vintage form of messaging is now back in fashion.
Going back to basics
As with many trends, what was once a hit many years ago eventually experiences a revival to become the new ‘in’ thing – with pen pals recently getting a renewed interest. Projects such as the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club as well as The League of Extraordinary Pen Pals have thousands of members flocking to use these services, while renowned social networking and news site Reddit even has its own pen pal sub-forum.
With the latest innovations proving popular amongst the younger generation, while impressive to many adults, there’s a sense of nostalgia that can’t be beaten with pen pals – just ask 68-year-old Margaret Roberts, who answered an advert in the Liverpool Echo requesting a pen pal. Striking up a written friendship with 70-year-old Ingrid Andersson, the pen pals have celebrated a friendship lasting an impressive 57 years.
From online to offline
While the concept of pen pals brings up the notion of writing via pen and paper, there’s no reason why it can’t start on a reverse note – beginning on a digital platform, then moving to reality. For Londoner Zoe Bateman, that’s how her friendship with Californian Megan began: “She commented on my blog and then I ordered an embroidered quote from her Etsy shop, which turned into a package swap. It continued from there. She’s a fan of British culture and I love Americana, so we did a ‘country swap’, sending local postcards, souvenirs and sweets.”
Another bonus to being pen pals is being creative – not being limited to using a generic font and email template. “It’s such a joy to include little odds and ends to make it special, such as art work or stickers, so it can brighten up their day,” explains Megan. Plus it gives the pair an excuse to practise their handwriting. “I find it relaxing – it’s nice to take a break from everything tech-based and get out my stationery,” adds Zoe. “I never handwrite anything else.”
A mutual match
Lastly, in a vast online network where many people share a similar mainstream interest, finding someone who appreciates the same niche taste as you can be difficult – but in the case of Sami Levett, she struck lucky. After joining the International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club, she is now part of a group of seven other female members who communicate daily online – as well as mail packages to each other. She says of the experience: “It gave me the courage to be my true self and not be ashamed of it. I wouldn’t have the confidence I do now if it wasn’t for those girls.”
So for those looking for an excuse to get back into the spirit of pen pals – no excuses! Find your pen pal today, and share your experiences with the rest of the Parcel2Go community.