An Open Letter to Open Letters

Dear Open Letter Articles,

This is gonna be short, (maybe) sweet, and a little more to the point than you.

Look, it’s not like I don’t get why you can be appealing; you come in so many shapes and sizes. You address yourself to best friends (or ex-best friends), boyfriends (or ex-boyfriends), and mothers (or ex-boyfriend’s mothers…or best friend’s ex-boyfriend’s mothers) (I’m not kidding about that last one). No past or present relationships, be they well established or barely there, are off-limits from your nostalgic contents.

Oh right, your contents – that’s actually the reason I’m writing you today. You have a pretty standard formula. You are basically a stream of repetitive “thank you” notes: you introduce your relationship with whatever person, you talk about the ways they benefit/ have benefitted you (probably in listicle form), and you end with something along the lives of “Thank you for making me into who I am today.” All wonderful things to say, but you know where else they could be said?

An actual letter to the recipient who knows the letter was meant for them.

You’re pretty much the editorial version of a passive-aggressive Facebook status or subtweet, but longer and kinder and therefore deemed more poetic. People share you because they could apply you to pretty much anyone who has had a meaningful relationship with another person, so you spread like wildfire without having any real substance or difference from your thousands of duplicates. And you’re also deemed journalism for these qualities, which is probably why you get repeated so often.

This is all equally true for your other format in which you address yourself to the reader, usually a quite specific type of girl: The Girl Who Loves Too Hard, The Girl Who’s Been Hurt Before, The Girl With An Old Soul. These could pretty much all be retitled “The Girl Who Feels Feelings and Thinks Thoughts.” Like your relationship-centric format focuses on general relationships, this format focuses on traits that apply to a wide range of women (more than likely every woman to some small degree), consisting mostly of generic encouragement like “Those who don’t bother to understand you aren’t worth your time” and “There is so much out there waiting for you.”

Don’t get me wrong, just like appreciating relationships, it is important for people to appreciate themselves, but my quarrel here is the same – there is no real specific advice for these girls hidden in your words. You are a slight variation on generic motivational cards, augmented with pictures of girls looking somewhere off camera.

You’re popular right now, I get that. I wouldn’t be adding this open letter to your pile if I wasn’t scrolling past dozens of you on my social media every day. All I’m really asking for is a bit of ingenuity; stick your neck out there, get specific in your testimony if you’re going to continue to dole out advice (instead of being, you know, an advice column). Take some time off of the Internet to find yourself and reconnect with your roots…perhaps in this explanation of what open letters are actually meant to be used for.

feature photo via by sadness helvigs unsplash