From robots to real connection: Arizona initiatives take on letter writing

Two Arizona-based projects have created new approaches to the personalization of letter writing: One uses robots and another encourages writing through monthly prompts.

Julia Schamko

Cronkite News

 In 2001, the U.S. Postal Service designated April as National Card and Letter Writing Month. Now, 23 years later, companies are taking a new approach, giving ease and access to those looking to write letters.

With advancements in technology speeding up how humans communicate with each other, slower methods of communication, like letter writing, have been losing popularity. According to a 2021 CBS News survey, 37% of Americans hadn’t written a personal letter in over five years.

But two Arizona-based initiatives have created new approaches to the personalization of letter writing. One uses robots while another encourages individuals to write through monthly prompts.

Colleen Schwab, founder of Scottsdale-based Random Letter Project, recognized the need for personal connection when she created the writing-prompt project amid the COVID-19 pandemic to inspire people to slow down and “step away” from their devices.

“The idea behind it was really about seeing an opportunity for people to slow down via letter writing and also recognizing that in this day and age, not a lot of people want to share their home address. So being able to combine those two things, essentially what the Random Letter Project is,” Schwab said.

The project features a monthly prompt for participants to answer in their letters, sharing personal experiences and opinions to others who also write in. Participants then mail the letter into the project’s office, where the writer’s envelope is exchanged to protect privacy, then the letter is mailed out to another participant anywhere in the world.

“Letter writing gives us an opportunity to slowly see the world through someone’s eyes,” Schwab said.


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