Can you remember the last time you sent a letter in the mail? Not the forced thank-you cards you wrote after your birthday, but a letter that actually told someone about your life and started a genuine dialogue?

Based on our nearly unlimited access to telephones, video messaging and emails, I’m going to take an intuitive leap and say that, for most people, it’s been a while since they popped something in the mail.

And why shouldn’t that be the case? Snail mail has by and large lost the race and is being phased out by more efficient forms of communication that make our lives substantially easier in the process. But completely switching to digital communication deprives us of the simple joys of sending and receiving handwritten mail, an old-fashioned tradition that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Letters and cards are undeniably good for relationships, assuming you aren’t including any deep-seated aggressions. Unlike emails, which take mere seconds to type, handwriting a letter is a time commitment. However, your hard work does not go underappreciated. The lucky recipient will know the additional effort you went through to put your sentiments in ink and genuinely appreciate the gesture. When you consider those extra minutes as an investment in your relationship, you know that it is time well spent.

The days or weeks of travel time required for physical messages to reach their recipients prevents the U.S. Postal Service from returning to its former role as the main facilitator of long-distance communication. All relationships are well-maintained over long distances with phone calls and video chats, but that isn’t to say that a handwritten note cannot supplement other forms of communication. As inundated as we are with social media, an unopened envelope really stands out among the screens. It’s a great way to put a little more into your relationships at 49 cents per postage stamp.

We have come a long way since the Pony Express and are now privy to technologies that allow us to instantaneously share our thoughts. But the shift toward electronic communication has left behind those who haven’t assimilated into our digital world. Primarily, I am talking about our elderly friends and family.

A shocking number of 21st-century retirees are tech-savvy, Facebook-commenting, smartphone owners, but not all are so up-to-date with current trends. Often, these are the people who most appreciate a handwritten card. Generational gaps that are already hard to overcome in face-to-face conversations can be bridged by opening communication in the time-tested format of letters.

Outside of our personal interactions, letter-writing contributes to the greater good. The financial troubles of the United States Postal Service are no secret. And we, the people of the United States, have the power to save it with our borderline heroic patronage of local post offices. Keeping the postal service alive will allow future generations to experience the irreplaceable magic of pen pals and birthday cards from grandma.

In the rat race of modern life, it is now more important than ever to stop and show the people in our lives how much they mean to us. Sticking a letter in the mail is a special and striking way to reach out to those you love.

Danielle Wilkin is a senior biology and science education major. She can be reached at