Google alerts alerted me yesterday that there's a new letter-writing web site on the radar. Believe it or not, I was thrilled. Whenever someone comes up with an innovative way of promoting letter writing I'm delighted. Some of my favorite sites are TheModernLetter.com and SoThere.com — the latter is a web site that posts a different break-up letter everyday. It's addictive. The latest letter-writing site is based out of the UK and it's called LeaveALetter.com. Before even clicking on the link, I found the URL charming and couldn't wait to dig in.
The motivation behind LeaveALetter.com is leaving letters and photos for your loved ones after you've gone. Not a bad idea at all! The way it works is you set up an account, and you're then free to add photos and letters to the account for the rest of your life. The "rest of your life" thing is a little strange. Any website that deals directly with my mortality might not get the warmest reception from me. I still, however, like the concept of being organized about what memorabilia you leave your descendants, and so I continued optimistically through the site.
I lost all faith when I realized that the "letters" you're leaving are electronic. They aren't collecting actual letters and storing them for you, but rather you write one main electronic letter that you can change or update at any time. I understand that we live in the age of all things digital and e-exchanges take place at lightning speed. When it comes to leaving letters for children and grandchildren, however, it's no longer about speed. It's about memory and sentimentality.The cool thing about holding a letter that my grandmother wrote is that she once held it in her hands too. It's just not the same reading a letter on screen or holding a printout. There's an emotional disconnect.
Now, I love the Internet as much as the next guy, but it still hasn't proven its staying power. We can't say for sure if it'll be around 100 years from now, whereas letters have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. LeaveALetter.com might not be accessible when it's time for my kids to collect my sentiments. Yes, this is one area that I don't think needs a technological makeover, and I say stick with leaving letters and photos in a trusty old shoebox or safe deposit box. Now, I did laugh out loud when I read about the retrieval process. A copy of my death certificate must be presented in order for my offspring to access my account — how amusingly morbid. On second thought, I know exactly how I feel about this. I don't like it.
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Books mentioned in this post
Samara O'Shea is the author of For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing