The Lost Love Letters Of Modern Writers.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 10.854% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

There was a writing on FetLife recently that lamented the loss of the love letters men wrote to their wives in the Civil War. Oh, the instant message has all but destroyed romance! she cried.  And I felt that writing overly romanticized the past and disabused the future; there are thousands of passionate love texts and emails being written daily.
You just don’t see them.
The world is still full of romance, but it hasn’t been boiled down neatly into a selection of the finest texts for your enjoyment. You think the Civil War is a florid selection of romance because historians sifted through the thousands of surviving letters and picked the most heart-wrenching for your enjoyment; they didn’t leave in the curt letters to “take care of my estate properly,” and they probably fixed the spelling, and the old-timey language makes it seem more beautiful to you because, well, what once was common speech now seems formal and elegaic.
But I guarantee you: I write beautiful texts of love, as do my lovers. There are always soldiers, and when they send emails home, some of them are writing beauty. The world still snaps and hums with romance, and if I could boil them all down to a selection of the finest texts, you’d walk away with the impression that the 2010s weren’t dick pics ‘n’ Tinder, but a great woven romance to put Shakespeare to shame.
And what worries me is not that we’ve somehow become less romantic as a society, but that we are losing that record of modern romance.
All those beautiful texts to my partners will be lost to AT&T when this is all done. There are long-distance lovers writing passionate emails to each other, but unless Gmail’s records are thrown open at the end of the day then those too will disappear.
I don’t think texts have made us worse, as a whole; they’ve exposed more portions of who we are, now that communication is so trivial. Yet 150 years from now, what will we have to remember of this? Authors used to exchange letters, which were scooped off their desks and archived into the complete correspondences of so we could see friendships develop, stories be built, the artist’s struggle.
Now it’s all done via text and Gchat. That’s almost gone as soon as it’s done. And the reason we remember these great romantic Civil War letters is because they were stored in someone’s attic to be pulled down, but now all these glorious emotions will dissolve into meaningless electrons once someone pulls the plug.
There is magic in the world, still, great beauty that deserves to be collected. So it was; so it will always be. But now that we’ve shifted everything onto electronics, what happens when the file formats change and the [][link-rot] sets in?
And I write this, knowing fully that it’s not as permanent as a letter. Once I die, my site will go dark. Eventually LiveJournal and Dreamwidth and Facebook and Twitter and FetLife will fade. I write this knowing that it is ephemeral, that more of our society is migrating our personal history to platforms that won’t stand the test of time, and what will be left to say about us when 150 years have passed?
This writing is for you. And it will never speak to the future.

1 Comment

  1. Alexis
    May 13, 2016

    This may sound counterintuitive, but maybe that’s for the best. Many of the great writers of the past would be mortified if they knew the world could read their most intimate letters and emotions. Plenty of them begged friends and family to burn their letters after they died. Can we truly have intimacy if we know very thing we say will be recorded for infinite posterity?

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