What I should have done was hand-fold origami invitations and filled them with personalized prose about how I believe that you (yes, you!) in particular would love the project Snail Mail My Email. But instead I sent a mass email to the entire office.
Here at NogginLabs, we are big fans of digital (see the “e” in “e-learning”). Computers offer a special brand of wizardry that allows us to build games, simulations, intergalactic worlds! That being said, our office is still teeming with exactly the kinds of creative minds that thrive on a challenge like Snail Mail My Email.
Snail Mail My Email, or SMME, is a non-profit annual project in which anyone can submit an email to anyone in the world—for free!—and that message will be forwarded along to a volunteer, pen at the ready to handwrite your words with a little bonus artistry. A friend of mine works as their tech director, and as soon as he told me about the project I signed up to volunteer. Just me and Joaquin Phoenix from the movie Her, translating digital sentiments into handwritten treasures.
The one-week submission period, which started on Monday and extends through EOD today (you still have a chance to submit your letters!), has led to a few late nights, more than a few drafts per letter, and dollars lost to international stamps. But the experience of volunteering has been rewarding all the same. Which begs the question: What is it about SMME that’s so appealing?
The obvious draw is the romance of writing a good old-fashioned letter. I realize when I explain the concept that I sound like just another nostalgia-phile, peddling my Penny-Farthing to the VHS store—but quaint-appeal isn’t all that this project has to offer. Snail Mail My Email is an expression of serendipitous care; a celebration of craft; the only truly legal way to read a stranger’s mail.
(Okay, maybe not that last one.)
One of the NogginLabs Blueprint Laws of e-learning is, simply, Care. My experience with Snail Mail My Email has been a fascinating one because I get to invest in the friendship of two strangers; to help translate that care from one person to another. In the time that I’ve volunteered this week, I’ve been given words for a significant other, a roommate, and a newborn daughter. Much like Miranda July’s late phone-to-face-to-face Somebody App, SMME offers the chance to use modern technology to acknowledge interconnectedness rather than promote anonymity.
Have an email in mind? There’s still time to submit your e-mail to Snail Mail My Email, and see what an artist somewhere in the world comes up with—or, keep an eye on the #SnailMailMyEmail Instagram tag to watch the words go by!