Read part one of Alone in a Crowd here.
“Happy birthday! Love, your favorite and only sister.” The closest most of us probably come to any handwritten confidence these days is signing a birthday card. Despite all the blank space inside enveloping a pithy sentiment, I don’t know many people who actually fill it up. Outside of Hallmark, parents don’t describe line by line how baby Tony tried to walk for the first time and biffed it on the coffee table. The photos are on Facebook. Friends don’t rehash last week’s party through long wine-stained scrawls. The rose got drank, and it was live tweeted.
Alone in a Crowd first looked at the piling on of social media and how that rapid but detached pace can contribute to loneliness. The responsibility falls heavier on us to reach below the harping statuses and Tweets to sustain meaningful connections with people. Malcolm Jones, a writer at Newsweek, observed, “The problem is not that there is not enough information about what we think or how we live. The problem is sifting through that sea of data. The most common complaint of our time is that we are overwhelmed by information, unmediated and unstoppable.”
For better or for worse, digitization will only become further integrated into our day-to-day life, so how can we embrace both the convenience and keep a grasp on mindfulness? How do we slow down? One reader, Naomi, tried something most of us probably haven’t done since grade school: pen pals. Jones also writes in Newsweek that “…if you do [write letters] enough, you begin to put your essential self on paper whether you mean to or not. No other form of communication yet invented seems to encourage or support that revelatory intimacy.” Below, Naomi describes why she decided to try pen palling and what she’s experienced as a 20-something exchanging letters around the globe.