Very few of my ideas are original, and my long-weekend plans for Memorial Day were no exception. I read an article from The Atlantic, written in 2014, titled I Sent All My Text Messages in Calligraphy for a Week and thought, huh, that’s interesting.
I made a post on Facebook saying that I was going to be replying to messages in handwriting. I guess I had a secret motive: it had been a weird week in the Navy – we lost some education benefits and advancement results were pretty low – and I thought it might encourage folks to start a conversation. I was surprised by the sorts of people who reached out. I was happy to hear from all of them. Also, I had gotten a really nice fountain pen from my dad for Christmas and I wanted to get more use of it. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I don’t use it more often; I write letters pretty regularly, but for some reason I never reach for the “nice” pen.
It was a long weekend – 96 hours. Here is how it went and what I learned.
People rolled with it!
Even in their confusion, I didn’t get nearly as much teasing as I was expecting. It was challenging to not use gifs or memes or emojis (the combination of the three being my primary mode of communication at this point), but it forced me to think of different ways to get tone and personality across.
People were also very kind in their compliments of my handwriting, something I’m a little self-conscious about. I know some folks who have truly beautiful script and mine, by comparison, feels like a haphazard scrawl. I also watch too many YouTube videos about pens, journals, and stationery, so my perspective is definitely skewed. It’s relaxing, okay? We all have our weird internet niches.
I had to sit down at an actual table in order to send a message
It is unbelievably easy and fast to respond to a text. So easy, in fact, that a lot of folks do it while they should be focusing on other things: driving, for example, or walking, or talking to someone directly in front of them. It is simultaneously completely engaging of one’s attention while also giving the illusion of being present elsewhere, physically and mentally.
Having to sit down at a table, take out a notebook, uncap my pen, and carefully write in cursive (I’m slow) felt positively medieval. It was so strange to have to go to a designated spot in my apartment to communicate with people; we’re used to being so completely connected at all times. But receiving a text or message while out and about or on the couch was like viewing it from a one-way mirror, like being receive-only.
I couldn’t comment on social media posts without exposing my stupid, self-imposed scheme
Sometimes, in my innocent scrolling, social media puts before my eyes some truly heinous comments. It feels like a moral imperative to speak up and challenge them.
Someone is wrong? On my internet?
Having to write out a response to some troll was absurd. Not feeling that obligation to reply, to succumb to some asshole digging for a response, was the most incredible relief.
Unlike the author of The Atlantic article, this experiment didn’t alleviate any sense of urgency when it came to replying to messages, because it turns out I don’t have much to begin with
Maybe I’m fortunate to have friends who don’t take it personally to be left on read for a while – or they haven’t yet expressed their frustration to me (sorry). There are friends who do the same for me, leaving me on read for days and weeks, and though it makes it a challenge to maintain communication, it’s not something I hold against them, either. I don’t feel entitled to a reply, never mind an instantaneous one, just because I initiate a conversation – maybe precisely because I’m used to friends getting back to me in their own time.
(I wish I was able to translate this patience to waiting for answers from romantic partners. Look, if you’re reading this, I know. I’m a hypocrite. It’s a problem.)
It made birthday wishes special
It takes only a few seconds to type out a Happy Birthday! to post on someone’s wall after Facebook’s generous reminder: a fire-and-forget. Taking just a few extra seconds to write something out by hand, take a photo of it, and post it to that person’s wall instead was so different, so much more thoughtful, and it barely took any extra time at all. I was so struck by how sweet this simple gesture was that I would like to continue to do it.
All in all…
This is not an experiment I’ll repeat, mostly because it reinforced things I already know: it takes a lot more time to write things out by hand, but those messages seemed more heartfelt. Sometimes, though, it’s just not practical to have to uncap the pen and take a seat only for the sake of replying okay/yes/no/etc. But it did give provide an easy explanation when people didn’t hear back from me in an instant.