Get a Typewriter. Write a Friend.
A few years ago, I picked up this 1941 Royal Arrow typewriter at the local antique store. Originally, the plan for this beautiful piece of machinery was to use it to decorate my home office, but then 2020 happened. A few months into this godawful year, I picked my typewriter up off its shelf and started typing.
Now, what I wrote doesn’t matter so much as why I started writing it in the first place. Like so many others, the constant firehose of breaking news this year took a serious toll on my mental health. For the first time in over a decade, I started having panic attacks, and my daily regimen of sleep, work, and iterative doomscrolling wasn’t exactly doing anything to help.
So I stopped.
Don’t get me wrong, quitting a habit as addictive as binge-drinking algorithmically laced social media feeds was a lot more difficult than simply “not doing it anymore.” It took a lot of effort—and more than a few false starts—to even begin to pull myself away from the little supercomputer I had surgically attached to me hand; but, eventually, I did it.
While my escape from the internet began with uninstalling toxic apps, it wasn’t until I re-discovered my old Walkman that the concept of downshifting all of the technology I use occurred to me.
And it worked.
The relative inconvenience of flipping a record over, or rewinding a cassette tape, or waiting for a roll of film to to be developed all introduced a little bit of ritual into my life that helped me get those pesky panic attacks under control. Unfortunately, the one thing the Ghost of Technologies Past couldn’t readily replace for me was good old fashioned human connection.
So… I started typing.
I wrote old friends—and new ones—carefully tucking each raw, unedited letter into individually addressed and stamped envelopes for the first time in my adult life… and you know what? They wrote me back! Not everyone had a typewriter, or even a printer, but that didn’t matter. They took the activity seriously, and over time we created our own little oasis; a calm place to wait out the storm together, my pen pals and I.
In a world where every screen is screaming for your attention, stepping away from them may be the only way to protect yourself; and, as it turns out, what I needed was to look to the past to help me better deal with the present. It’s not foolproof—the world doesn’t stop spinning just because you stop looking—but if you are feeling a little untethered and just need to find some solid ground, get a typewriter—or don’t—and write a friend.