In third grade Sister Mary Margaret introduced me to letter writing. I loved the art of writing letters from the salutation to the signature. I was taught to provide a provocative opening, an explanatory body, a concise summary and an appropriate ending for every letter written to invite, thank, congratulate, deliver news or convey condolences.
When I was 13 I had a pen pal in Surrey, England. We began by asking and answering questions about where we lived and what we did. After getting to know each other better through monthly correspondence, Brenda and I shared our adventures and our aspirations for several years.
When I went to San Francisco for college my best friend chose the University of Hartford. We wrote to each other almost every day. There was so much to tell — who we met, where we went, what we did. Sometimes I wrote more than one letter in a day and labeled the second one “read me last.” These letters were, of course, written in longhand since I only used my typewriter for term papers.
Living in Hawaii gave me more reason to write to friends and family on the mainland. In those days calling long distance was a big deal. My parents called at 6 p.m. my time every other Sunday, but my friends and I relied on the U.S. mail to communicate. Even when my life became more complicated with a family and a full-time job, I made the time to write letters, and it was always a thrill to find a reply in my mailbox.
A while ago I got an email from Anne, a classmate from high school. When Anne became a doctor her first job was at a Honolulu clinic near the newspaper office where I worked. We used to “do lunch” and spend time together. We lost touch with each other when I left Hawaii but we reconnected last summer at our 40th high school reunion. Anne’s hobbies are travel and photography. When she returned from a trip to South America in February she emailed asking to add me as a friend on Facebook. She said it was the easiest way to share her photos with me and other friends.
To view Anne’s photos I had to join Facebook. On Sunday, March 1, I took the plunge. I followed the steps to set up my profile. I was prompted to add friends and allow friends to view my “wall” and write on it. I could write on their walls, too. Writing on a Facebook wall is like putting a sticky note on someone’s refrigerator door. It’s quick, it’s casual and you’re pretty confident they will see it eventually.
There are 115 million people on Facebook and that many walls. What began with college kids socializing with back and forth cryptic messages has caught on with Boomers who are using this modern technology to rekindle relationships from the past.
My newest Facebook friends are two women who lived on the same floor of my dorm when we were freshmen at USF. Both are nurses. Charlene lives in Connecticut and Marilyn is in Las Vegas. I haven’t seen or talked to either of them since college, but last weekend we bumped into each other on Facebook. We’re writing on each other’s walls now.
Sister Mary Margaret must be rolling over in her grave. No need for salutations, thoughtful sentence structure or careful penmanship now. I just flip open my laptop, log on to Facebook, tap out a one-liner, hit enter and a message is stuck to a wall for friends to read. R u on FB?