Appreciating the spirit behind the open letter

Photo by Tyler Meuter

In these last few years, there’s been a movement in journalism that’s recently been spiraling into some rather ridiculous extremes: the open letter. Now I’m not insulting open letters, there are some pretty well-written ones, such as “An Open Letter To Lil Wayne’s Laugh”, a thought-provoking piece accusing the rapper of having sold out and turning his laugh into a gimmick to sell more records.

Apart from gems like that though are the hundreds of open letters that now flood my Facebook feed, with overly specific titles like “An Open Letter To The Girl I Got Coffee With During My Study Abroad” that end up being an ode to one person the author found a fleeting connection with.

Despite the incredible specificity of these articles, I’m rather fond of them. The rise of many journalism websites is an incredible opportunity for new writers who want to flex their writing muscle. Add the rise of list journalism and other things drawing people to these websites like fun quizzes, and you’ve got a whole new way people consume media.

In the past, these written things could only be released in magazines or small publications, but the Internet is making it possible for people to broadcast their thoughts on literally any topic. But what I find lovely about these open letters, in particular, is how varied they can be. One can be calling someone out in the most incredibly passive aggressive way, while yet another by the exact same author can be them declaring the incredible amount of affection they have for something.

People who dislike the open letter will often say that there are hundreds of the same letter, and that’s true. Just search for an open letter to a roommate and you’ll see several right there on the first page. Sure, some of the ideas get a little repetitive, but the emotion behind these letters is genuine.

People can now write these lists or letters to people they care about, and put them somewhere the entire world can see them. Yes, it is a bit showy, but it is how some people express their affection or distaste for someone, and to each their own. If someone wants to write a heartfelt piece about deep dish pizza, let them; its just as valid as someone writing an open letter to the first person they loved.

At the end of the day, while I may not write an open letter, I’ll read the occasional one. They’re a powerful tool to send a message, or just a sweet gesture towards someone who means a great deal, and you know that whatever that person wrote about inspired a lot of passion in them. And really, as long as someone’s reading the letter, it is not just a sad obsessed person broadcasting their opinions into the void.

They’re creating something to show their dedication to something, and I think in a world that seems to esteem apathy greatly, it is a lovely thing to be so unabashedly passionate about something.