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Forget Sexting, Here's Why Love Letters Should Make A Comeback This Valentine's Day

10/02/2017 16:16
Jamie Grill via Getty Images

A small package lands on your doormat. For once, it's not a bill. And your name and address on the envelope are handwritten. Don't you immediately feel just the tiniest bit of excitement?

Perhaps buoyed by a collective social memory of times gone by (and the psychological conditioning of a million romantic films), a handwritten note carries more emotional currency than a text or email. But why does a hand-crafted communiqué innately feel more special than an instant message?

It all comes down to costly signalling theory, or the handicap principle; the more time and effort that goes into a communication, the more meaningful it becomes to the recipient.

"We love receiving handmade communications precisely because they are labour-intensive to create and time-consuming to send," say creatives Ran Stallard and Max Maclean, whose SXSW talk last year was entitled 'Screw Email! Why The Clever Comms Are Handmade'. They argue that "a hundred birthday well-wishes on Facebook aren't worth one handwritten card," and "the handmade movement provides a tangibility and - most crucially - a humanity that digital doesn't have."

And when it comes to telling that special someone just how much you love them, new research from the College of Sexual & Relationship Therapists (COSRT) and Nuco International suggests that putting down your phone is the way to go. "We were intrigued to find that a love letter is still the best way to someone's heart," says Louise Spencer-Stevens, Product & Marketing Manager at Nuco International. "Some of the most significant love stories in history were recorded with pen and paper and to this day are still the ultimate relationship goals."

"Texts are not exactly romantic, although the younger generations who have grown up to use text as a primary means of communication may disagree with this," says sex therapist Joanna Coker, who believes that the written medium is not only more personal and more romantic, but also more of a turn-on.

"A text disappears in just a moment, whereas a letter lasts forever," she adds. "It is tangible and stimulates our senses, you can see it, feel it and smell it -- the paper the ink and often the person's fragrance. It can be brought out time and time again as a testament to the memory of love."

The ability to rattle off a text or tweet in seconds has made it easier for us to shoot from the hip, creating the potential for misunderstandings and even hurting other people's feelings simply because we aren't giving our words enough thought. Taking the time to put pen to paper can help couples communicate better by "slowing down hot emotion and encouraging reflection," says Joanna.

And finally, less romantically but just as importantly, in this era of surveillance, sending a traditional love letter is arguably the safest way to pledge your troth. Just ask anyone whose saucy messages have fallen into the wrong hands. As leaked nudes continue to go viral, and the government gears up to listen to your phone calls and read your emails, remember: it's impossible to hack a piece of paper.

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