One of my favourite books is Love Letters of Great Men — a book featured in the Sex and the City movie — that I, as a self-diagnosed hopeless romantic, felt compelled to purchase. My personal favourite letter in the book is one by Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett.
When the heart is full it may run over, but the real fullness stays within.
Words can never tell you, however, form them, transform them anyway, how perfectly dear you are to me, perfectly dear to my heart and soul.
I look back, and in every one point, every word and gesture, every letter, every silence, you have been entirely perfect to me, I would not change one word, one look.
My hope and aim are to preserve this love, not to fall from it, for which I trust to God who procured it for me, and doubtless can preserve it.
Enough now, my dearest, dearest, own Ba!
You have given me the highest, completest proof of love that ever one human being gave another.
I am all gratitude, and all pride (under the proper feeling which ascribes pride to the right source) all pride that my life has been so crowned by you.
Now I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m left to wonder how words like these have become extinct. The fact he wrote this particular letter once they were already married is even more astonishing. To know that their love was already legally bound and that he still was so vocal about his feelings is hard to grasp.
I’m left to wonder if perhaps the evolution of technology and its impact on communications had something to do with the decline in substance when it comes to communication.
For example, the technical term for texting messaging is SMS, which stands for short messaging system. Text messaging, which has become one of the most popular forms of communication, calls for concise short messages and has given rise to a lexicon of abbreviations serving as a backbone for expression.
Take the abbreviation LOL, which stands for “laugh out loud” and was originally used to express laughter in the digital world — but is now extensively used in varying connotations to mean different things. The abbreviation has also seeped into everyday life and can be found used in e-mails, and even accidentally when speaking in person.
Has this sort of adaptation by communication had a detrimental impact on the very substance of communication? Has it become uncool to express raw emotion — cumbersome even when we have icons like “<3” to do the work for us? Have quick and easy methods of communication made us too lazy to actually communicate?
In stark contrast to communication methods such as SMS are letters like the ones Robert Browning wrote. I worry we have become to obsessed with over simplifying, that we are satisfied with a simple text message conveying emotion that once took an entire letter to transmute.
Letters are almost the antithesis of modern communication methods. If you knew a letter could take weeks to reach its destination, you would put effort into its composition. You would fill it with substance and style — something modern communication lacks.