MANY young persons don’t know how to write a letter. I’ve read missives without a salutation or a complimentary close.
Rarely does a young letter writer find out the name of the person he or she is addressing. Or verify the spelling, the position, or the gender.
And the tone, the tone of the letters. Millennials write a letter as if it were just another SMS, Tweet or status post on Facebook.
A teacher drummed into our senior high school class that writing a letter is not first about getting what you want; it’s about letting the words reflect who you are, crucial when the person reading the letter has never met you.
All that seems like worlds ago.
According to “Heartbreaks and Healing,” a survey of 500 Filipinos recently conducted by the online shopping site Lazada, technology and new media mediate in the relationships of many Filipinos.
To break up with partners, 58 percent of Filipinos used their mobile phones; 34 percent did it in person; and 6.3 percent gave a handwritten letter.
More Filipinos (30 percent) chose to text and break up, compared to the 22 percent who called and the seven percent who resorted to instant messaging.
Perhaps technology spares more feelings. And trees, too. (I imagine I would try to write a “break-up” letter, crumple and throw aside, start with a fresh sheet, crumple again, and so forth. Or perhaps mistake a ream of paper as fresh tissue for a freshet of tears.)
The same Lazada survey (no data about scientific rigor) revealed that “online profiling” is standard to check out a potential partner.
Fifty-four percent of the respondents visited the social media page of a potential date, with 60 percent of these respondents losing interest in someone they liked before they stalked them online.
Ages ago, my generation used the “FLAMES” technique as an alternative to card-reading, matchmakers, and the personal network of relatives and friends one could rely on to spy on one’s obsession.
I wrote my name and the name of the boy, crossed out the common letters, and counted the remaining letters. If the last count landed on “F,” it meant the boy and I would remain friends; “L” meant “lover;” “A” for “acquaintance;” “M” for “marriage;” “E” for “enemy;” and “S” for “sweetheart”.
One could try a variation of nicknames to get the coveted “S” or avoid the dreaded “A”. In the corridors where nuns and teachers were omnipresent, we giggled that “L” came before “M”—a daring sequence we found romantic but too racy to aspire for.
In the age of instant connections and bloodless breakups, I wonder about social media’s substitute for the firing squad on Valentine’s Day. Technology shouldn’t be destiny.
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*First published in SunStar Cebu’s February 12, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”