Step 1: Write a letter to someone you know.
If you are interested in snail mail and pen palling, I suggest starting with those closest to you--write a letter to your grandmother, your mother, your sister, your brother, your best friend from high school . . . or send a thank-you letter to someone who has had you over for dinner or given you a gift (no matter how long ago).
Step 2: Take a picture and tag it.
Note: You do not have to have a dedicated mail account on IG. You can keep photographing what you've always enjoyed photographing, but adding snail mail pics to your account is a good way to meet others interested in snail mail as well. It doesn't have to be all you post about--there are letter lovers who only occasionally take pictures of mail, those who focus exclusively on mail, and those like me who have a little of everything with a heavy emphasis on mail. :)
Step 3: Keep writing letters to family and friends.
Write your grandmother again. Get back in touch with an out-of-state friend. Send your cousin a birthday card. Even if you aren't receiving mail in return, enjoy the process of giving to another, sending mail off to be enjoyed with no strings attached. Writing a letter is like a good talk with an old friend. You feel connected just by the act of writing, and you know that you are sending something that will likely brighten someone's day. It's worth it for that alone.
Step 4: Be sociable on Instagram.
If you're enjoying the Instagram thing and you want to keep meeting new IGers, keep taking and posting pics. Pretty soon you will have a collection of happy mail pics in your gallery, and you might have already met some other snail mailers. Follow the accounts of those who inspire you. Comment on photos and say hello.
Always be sincere in your IG conversations--just enjoy interacting with others who share your interests, regardless of whether or not you will ever be penpals or they will ever follow you back. Have fun making new friends, and eventually you may find that some of these friends would like to exchange letters. Occasionally, someone will put a request out for new penpals. Responding to a general request or responding to a request that someone makes of you through comments on a photo is a great way to get started writing.
Step 5: Keep these tips in mind (just a few things I've learned by watching):
- The person that introduces himself/herself or requests to exchange letters generally starts the process (if agreed to) by writing first.
- Use email, rather than the comments section on IG, to exchange addresses. In this case, your email will be displayed publicly but your address won't. I think there are varying levels of caution with this. It doesn't worry me too much to have my email out there, but I do go ahead and use email to get the formalities taken care of. That said . . . see below.
- A few of my IG friends (hello, @bevinblight, @carmsdubois, and @juliabump!) have also devised a stealthy "self-destructing message" system wherein information is left in a comment, written down by the intended recipient, and then deleted immediately after. (This is a surefire way to add some intrigue to the whole process and is very appealing to me, as I did have my own detective agency as a kid and have a lot of experience with this kind of top-secret stuff.)
- Some avid snail mailers may have all the penpals that they can handle at the moment. Be sure to check their profiles before requesting in case they have already specified that they are not looking for new pals at this time.
- If a fellow Instagrammer replies that he or she is not taking on new penpals at the moment, do not take it personally. That just means that this person is already full with real life responsibilities and current letter writing commitments. Don't worry--there are lots of people out there who need a good letter and lots of people willing to write. Give it time and be friendly and keep sending happy mail to everyone that's already in your address book.
- Your new penpals do not necessarily have to be established letter writing enthusiasts--any of your Instagram friends could be a future penpal. If someone leaves a kind comment on one of your snail mail photos or if you have an IG friend you've interacted with frequently, ask if that person would like to share his or her address and start writing.
Keep in mind that you may have an offline friend who is just as interested in keeping in touch via snail mail as your Instagram friends are. Ask around (in person, on Facebook, by email . . .). If you find someone who is game, just start small by committing to one letter each and deciding who is going to write first. It's always nice to build and strengthen current friendships in addition to making new ones!
There is more to be said on this and lots of inspiring sites (and Instagram accounts!) to check out, but for now I will leave you with these 6 steps. Let me know if you have any questions! And if any of my more experienced letter writing friends are reading this, I'd love for you to chime in with your experience and wisdom! How did you get started?
Time to write a letter. :)
P. S. I've been using my IG pics for these posts, so sorry for the repeats (and sub par quality). Grainy IG pics are better than no pics, right?
P. P. S. To all fo my "real life" and Instagram friends--I am thankful for you!