Hollins Student Uses Social Media to Revive the Lost Art of Letter Writing

Hollins University sophomore Abby Hargreaves has always enjoyed receiving letters, even more so now that she’s attending college 700 miles from her home in Derry, New Hampshire.

“You get email after email and there’s nothing special or personal about them most of the time,” she explains. “But having something I could touch from my family helped make the transition to going to school in Virginia easier for me.”

 The experience motivated Hargreaves to become an avid letter writer herself, and now she is hoping to inspire others to take up or resume the practice of handwriting personal letters to family and friends. She’s created a Facebook campaign called “Write a Letter Day” and is inviting people of all ages from across the nation to simply write and mail a letter to someone else on April 30.

“I like getting letters and I know other people like getting letters,” she says. “On ‘Write a Letter Day’ people can write whatever they want, even if it’s just ‘Hi, I miss you.’ That’s enough. Getting that piece of mail is exciting – ‘Oh look, real handwriting on the envelope’ – as compared to just receiving a bill or junk mail.”

Hargreaves began planning “Write a Letter Day” in early 2012. “I thought about why letter writing has fallen out of fashion and I’m sure it’s because of all the technology that’s available. Technology is great, but it just takes away from that thing you can hold in your hands and say that person also touched this piece of paper. That meant a lot to me and I wanted other people to have that experience.”

Hargreaves says she chose April 30 as the date for “Write a Letter Day” to allow enough time to get the word out and because she felt it would be an easy date to remember. Since April 30 falls on a Monday, it would also give people the entire preceding weekend to write a letter. “I’ve invited over 3,000 people to take part and right now about 500 have expressed interest in participating. I’m encouraging everyone to put ‘Write a Letter Day 2012′ on the envelope so the post office can see what’s going on.”

While Hargreaves not surprisingly has seen more interest from the older generation in “Write a Letter Day” (“I received letters from two 82-year-old women a couple of weeks ago and they were just really grateful I decided to do this”), she says she has heard from lots of parents who want to get their children involved. “There are younger people who are recognizing the importance of letter writing and want to try to bring it back as well.”

Nevertheless, Hargreaves admits “Write a Letter Day” is just a first step in making the art popular once again. “I think the fascination with the archaic is still there, but we’re still getting such a flood of new technologies. Until that starts slowing down, I don’t think we’re going have that true interest come back.” She adds she realizes the irony of using social media to draw attention to a form of communication it has helped marginalize, but notes Facebook is simply the fastest, easiest, least expensive way of reaching a lot of people.

An English major with a concentration in creative writing, Hargreaves is already planning on conducting another “Write a Letter Day” campaign in October of this year.