The 21st century pen pal

Depending on your age, your teacher may have set you up with a pen pal when you were a child. Someone in a far away land who you traded letters with; learning what life was like on the other side of the globe. I remember my classmates getting all excited on the day pen pals were issued, many of whom would later bring in letters and pictures from their new, foreign friends for Show and Tell day. (My self-elected pen pal was my former BFF from pre-school. Her family left the Westside and moved 20 miles across town when I was seven. She wrote to me about the oddities of the San Fernando Valley and I kept her up to date about life at the beach.)

Today, I can't help but to realize that the pen pal concept is no longer relevant (at least not in its original form). Yes, I know there are several sites online that will match kids and adults with pen pals, but who needs that? People can hop on their computers and meet folks in different countries any time they like.

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other social networking sites, lots of us have cyber friends all over the world. We share Twitpics and tweets with far away "followers" and post comments on the walls of Facebook friends in exotic places. Yesterday, I connected with someone interesting from Turkey and traded tweets with him about blogging and animals.

So, in many ways, I guess my cyber friends are, indeed, 21st century pen pals. People who tell me about their lives, their families, their hobbies, and life in their part of the world. Instant communication that, thanks to character limits, probably takes no longer to read or write than a child's pen pal letter. No waiting for the mail to arrive; no postage stamps to purchase.

It's no wonder the U.S. Postal Service is sinking faster than a blow-up raft with an anvil on it.


  1. This post really hit home with me. When I was in junior high, and living in Chicago, I had a pen pan, that lived in the suburbs. I thought she was the coolest on pen and paper! A few years later, we also moved out to the suburbs, and I ended up at the same high school. Guess what? We had nothing in common. The end of pen pals.

    With my blogger life, facebook, and twitter, I feel like my pen pal rocks again. The bonus is I have found people, that matches my interest! Now of course sometimes I get myself in trouble. I am passionate about a few topics, and I have learned where to bite my tongue. I have also found that there is a way to tease and joke on internet paper without offending. Every Sunday I can heckle opposing teams in football, and other crazy topics. I also can take it, so that helps.

    But most recently, my family and I drove 11 hours to Jefferson City, Tennessee. My Twitter peeps kept me company, and I was able to TwitPic my journey. One girl was like, wherever @abutterflyloves goes, there you are. I couldn't help but grin. It was like I took my cyber friends with. After I got home, I thanked everyone for helping me with that long stretch.

    I might not be the best blogger. And I sometimes, due to my busy work schedule, not be the best at responding right away. But if you have patience, know I am reading, and I try to be a good online friend. Life is busy, but this really works for me.

    Have a good one!


  2. Kimmy,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and for taking the time to leave a comment. I really enjoyed your story. When I spent time with my pen pal again in college, my experience was the same as yours. Nothing in common.

    Social media is great in that we can seek out new friends, and those with similar interests. I just looked at your profile on Twitter and see that you're a fellow Glee fan. Again, the wonder of social media and connecting!

    Thanks again for sharing your story, Kimmy.


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