My friend sent me a letter the other day. True to her haphazard, artistic and lapsang-drinking form, she had enclosed it in an envelope crafted by her own hand out of a scrap of magazine and 70s sticky tape, which she had made because she had ‘run out of envelopes’, as a scrawl on a white patch of the magazine print indicated. My family were perplexed and intrigued by this deformed rectangular package that was lodged, damp, in our mailbox. It was the microdot ‘I love Frankie’ on the envelope lip that gave it away as a few words cobbled together, homemade and decorated by biro doodles, just for me.
The letter lived up to its exterior as two pieces of crinkly A5, frayed at the edges as she had torn them hastily from her notepad. They were etched in a familiar script and embellished with pink highlighter borders and red squiggles. Parentheses mirrored perfectly her rambling speech, capitals dramatised her statements and a hand drawn map of her summer travels gave a personality and vitality to her words, an immediacy, that transported me in a moment to her university room and evoked that faint scent of lapsang, of course. I felt privileged that with me in mind, she had formed a little puddle of ink into something to be read and re-read with that same sense of the present even in future years to come.
That is what is so sacred about something written by a pen. It is the autograph of a dear one whose lines and grooves you can trace in the page. Yet more importantly, it lasts. Compare it to the cursor. The tiny blinking line begins its life with such instability. It can create poetry just as quickly as it can be destroyed by a ctrl+a sweep of blue and a tap of the delete key. Something typed can be rewritten, tweaked, edited, re-coloured, emboldened, italicised, underlined, inflated and deflated. A document on a computer is not a forever, but rather a maybe, always able to be mutated and perfected as the creator’s whim takes. Blogging itself is defined as adding new material to, or constantly updating a forum where opinions are recorded. But the edit button is never out of reach.
We do not have this same editing mentality as we hold a pen between our fingers. Inking on a page can be covered up by scribbles, smudged by water, but never fully erased (assuming of course that there is no dramatic period drama style tableau of flushed faces and letters thrown on fires.)
Our modern age of flux is perhaps very well suited to this changeable way of cataloguing experience. As society evolves, what seemed the present suddenly becomes the past, and the way we communicate ideas and opinions needs to keep up as society edits itself. We are both private and public creatures. Composing a letter to someone on a few crisp sheets, perhaps spritzing them with fragrance and paperclipping on a photograph is for me a very personal way to share myself with another. Yet the internet allowing me to share myself that little bit further is what amazes me about the written word. People want to read and write in a way that allows them to edit, develop, alter and evolve their opinions to suit the rapidly changing society around them.
Not only can an online personal presence take you down unexpected career avenues, as @mashable Mashable Business’ article ‘Students, Here’s How to Kick-Start Your Personal Brand Online’ demonstrates, but this constant sharing of information transforms the internet into a community. It is a very human organisation that connects like-minded people. The web takes the little blinking cursor and elevates it beyond its clinical black and white flicker, transforming it into a modern Hermes that carries messages across a digital landscape. Just like letters and postcards, blogging and article-sharing maps out for writers and readers the exotic places that their opinions are reaching, assuring them that their voices will never be lost in translation.