Monday, March 10, 2014
I have had a number of requests inquiring how to get into pen-paling. Yeah I know my Instagram feed and Facebook feed have been flooded with photos of mail...incoming and outgoing. With RAKs (random acts of kindness) thrown in for good measure.
I have been writing one pen-pal for close to a year now. Once I got a smartphone I immediately created an Instagram account. I had been so jealous of those able to use it up until I was able to join the craze. I have found sharing photos + words via Instagram and then onto Facebook to be a simple way to almost "blog" since I have found blogging to be mostly emotionally and physically draining. Once I joined Instagram I started to not only follow family and friends but those who had an interest in Project Life. One person that I had started to follow announced that her mailbox was beginning to feel lonely, so she was on the lookout for new pen-pals. I found myself leaving her a message. I believe she had the stipulation that you had to be around 20 years-old or older. We emailed each other about ourselves and she felt that we were a good match and a week or so later I received my first letter.
So how do you get into pen-paling? Well if you are on Instagram you can look up the hashtag #penpalswanted for starters, though I do so with a word of warning. The first time I looked up the hashtag I actually felt OLD. Many of those looking for pen-pals on Instagram seem to be in their teens and many times 30 is the cut off age. (When did 32 become too old?)
I also commented on someone's post that was looking for pen pals and received an email that was very fishy. The person said they were from Texas, grew up in the US, were Christian and claimed that it was through God that we were able to connect. She couldn't wait to get to know me better and maybe someday visit my country. And maybe we could even possibly become more than friends. More than friends? She also shared two photos. All of this was written in broken English. Hard to believe considering this individual had attended graduate school. Tom did a search on one of the photos and it popped up with many different names associated with it.
So it would seem that searching for pen-pals via Instagram would be a waste of time and even possibly harmful. I do actually have 4+ new pen pals that I did find through Instagram. How can you tell that someone is sincere and would make a great pen-pal? Look at their feed. See what kind of photos they share. If someone is invested in writing letters they will take the time to take good photos of their mail...both incoming and outgoing. I have come across one individual that is sending letter(s) each Monday to complete strangers from all over the world. Jamie has a blog dedicated to sharing photos called Sincerely, Moi. Here she explains her project and reasons for why she is doing it. I was lucky enough to receive letter #10. I shared a flipagram of it on Instagram but you can also see it on her blog here.
So if you are a little nervous about searching for pen pals using #penpalswanted try these hashtags: #happymail, #snailmail, #showandmail and #snailmailrevolution. You will find tons of photos of what looks like very fun mail. The kind of mail that you would want to receive in your mailbox. There are some though that won't be looking for pen-pals at present. It just means that they have just the amount where they can continue to send quality mail. But many times I will follow them because I just find what they are sharing to be inspiring. Snail mail really has been taken to the next level for many. There are even those who are claiming that pen-paling is helping to save the USPS. :)
If you are on Facebook (even if you don't get on it often) I would recommend joining the group Snailmail Friends. I actually discovered this group just as it was being started via Instagram. It is an awesome group of mostly females from all over the world. We started off sharing a little about ourselves and then left comments asking if a certain person was interested in being pen pals. Being part of this group has caused my number of pen-pals to skyrocket. I honestly haven't counted how many pen-pals I have because I'm literally too scared to count. And I keep adding more! (I know! I'm nuts! But that person is from a country I don't have!) It is such a friendly group with a very supportive atmosphere. It isn't a group aimed at just finding pen-pals, but we also share ideas and photos with each other. It is in this group that I discovered what a mail tag was, what things are good to include in your first letter, how to put together a pen-pal album, how to make a pen-pal mini book, etc. There are documents on where are the best places to find stationary, mail tag ideas, resources for finding free printables, websites and blogs that provide inspiration for taking your mail to the next level. Nowhere in this group is your address listed. Others have to personally contact you for that information. You are welcome to share your Instagram account, where you are from, etc. but it isn't required.
There are other Facebook groups aimed at helping you find pen-pals, and I joined one of them. I have to say that I was really creeped out! There were constant reminders that it wasn't a dating group and there were quite a few older men on the lookout for pen-pals. Maybe they were sincere, but there is just something wrong about a 50+ year old man writing a 15 year old teen girl. Needless to say I quickly took my exit from that group and have stuck with just Snailmail Friends.
If you are neither on Instagram nor Facebook, or if you don't feel comfortable finding pen-pals through those venues, I would suggest starting with writing to your family and friends. Does that sound silly? My love for writing letters started when I was young. I would write my grandma and cousins, and once my family moved to Washington I wrote my friends letters. I actually wrote my 4th grade teacher for many years. My family now refers to her as Aunt Myra. I have also written to my youngest sister off and on over the last few years. We stopped writing letters when I moved to Utah, (she lives in Utah too), but we have recently started up again. What can I say? We both love getting happy mail. :)
So get off of your computer, find a piece of paper and pen and get writing! Don't feel pressured that you have to be creative or include a lot of goodies with your letters. Happy mail is happy mail! Trust me...a handwritten letter is always appreciated. As the quote by Phyllis Theroux says, "To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart".
(Curious about what a mail tag, pen pal album and pen pal mini book are? Stay tuned and I'll share examples and resources where you can learn more and be inspired at the same time.)