The penpal experience
October 16, 2018 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Slowly is an app avaialble for iOS or Android, which enables you to write letters to people around the world. The catch (or hook): Your letters will take hours to arrive, mimicking a slower, pen-pal like experience.
posted by Cozybee (26 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
We have phones for phones (Palm) to make our life simpler (because, hey - who can't disable notifications, remove timewasting apps, or just not... for hypothetical's sake actually open apps unless you really need them), now we need to slow-down email?

How about just check it once a day and then choose when to reply...

...old man yells at cloud...

Perhaps the problem isn't technology, but human-nature and "always-on" attention gratification/gamification...
posted by jkaczor at 10:08 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Your letters will take hours to arrive, mimicking a slower, pen-pal like experience.

Letters from my pen pals took a week to transit from ireland to the USA and vice versa. "Hours" isn't "slow".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:10 AM on October 16, 2018 [26 favorites]


Yes, nothing I want to do more than type the multiple paragraphs of a real letter with my thumbs and the aide of Apple’s truly magnificent autocorrect capabilities. That doesn’t at all sound in any way like a miserable nightmare, great job!
posted by Caduceus at 10:12 AM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


Well, I guess I waited too long to capitalize on this idea. My version probably would have been too elaborate, anyway; I envisioned PDFs of procedurally generated longhand letters, occasionally grubby, or tattered, or marred with candle wax. Every so often your letter would be lost "en route," to simulate the sinking of the packet boat.
posted by Iridic at 10:13 AM on October 16, 2018 [18 favorites]


I wish them well and all, but really, for a letter/postcard writing experience, you could just write a letter. Or, maybe it's difficult to actually find pen friends to write to these days?
posted by carter at 10:21 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Wow, a lot of negativity in the thread for what looks like a cute, harmless, idea. Nowadays everything seems to be delivered instantly (save rare cases of server outage) so I wonder how much this helps to remove the pressure to reply as soon as possible.
posted by Memo at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


This honestly sounds lovely to me. And I'd do it, if I could guarantee that it would just be people seeking something similar (friendship, chatting, sharing what their world looks like).

Given that on any given day, my fairly innocuous (seriously, it's almost all pictures of my cats) Instagram ends up in shady spam DMs from random international dudes, maybe I'm just too jaded. :(
posted by librarianamy at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Or, maybe it's difficult to actually find pen friends to write to these days?

I have a very rewarding penpal exchange going on with a 19-yo new father who was looking for older fathers to talk to. We met through a random reddit post. If you want to write letters to someone, I suspect all you need to do is (even in this thread) just say "I want to write letters to someone."
posted by 256 at 10:49 AM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Wow, a lot of negativity in the thread for what looks like a cute, harmless, idea.

I'd have no complaints at all if there was also a web app. It totally is a cute idea. But I'm not doing this shit on a phone or tablet (even if I had a tablet to do it on), that's ridiculous. I'm an adult with other things to do in my day and it takes like five times as long to type anything on a phone.
posted by Caduceus at 10:54 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


librarianamy: you can filter by gender so that only women can contact you, if that helps. you can also exclude users who have indicated "sex" or "relationships" as topics they're interested in talking about.

I literally just discovered this app a few hours ago, so, ah, all I've done is send letters that haven't reached their destination yet, but I'm cautiously excited. I still remember when I called the swedish number, which was an all-around positive experience.
posted by Cozybee at 10:55 AM on October 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


And it's harder on one's neck, in almost any possible instance of using phone/tablet vs. computer.
posted by Caduceus at 10:56 AM on October 16, 2018


if there was also a web app

Oh hells no... The number of times a browser has crashed and eaten my "masterful ream of text" make me hesitant to even post this comment...

... You know, using "Lookout", you can schedule a delivery time for your messages.... Just add a few days or a week...

Or - better yet, make a relay email address, that simply holds onto messages for a few days, then sends them - works across EVERY email client known to humankind...
posted by jkaczor at 11:00 AM on October 16, 2018


You know, I'd love to find a penPal, but I don't know many other Braille readers, and even if I did, I don't have a great way to produce it nowadays. Somehow, I feel like typing/printing/scanning print or whatever would lose its novelty real quick ;) Apps are lovely.
posted by Alensin at 11:10 AM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


I wish them well and all, but really, for a letter/postcard writing experience, you could just write a letter. Or, maybe it's difficult to actually find pen friends to write to these days?

If the Slowly app isn't old school enough, here's Letter Writers Alliance to the rescue. I've made a couple of nice pen pal friends through them.
posted by JanetLand at 11:12 AM on October 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yes, nothing I want to do more than type the multiple paragraphs of a real letter with my thumbs and the aide of Apple’s truly magnificent autocorrect capabilities.

Bluetooth keyboard works a treat. Do most of my writing these days with a Compass 2 stand, a folding BT keyboard, and my twee pink iPhone SE. Mind you, I'm someone who hates laptops, so my bias is manifest.

I have had great transcontinental relationships with penpals via paper mail, email, and various digital frameworks. Whatever means works is the one that works, and I would venture a guess that this would work for a fair number of people in the post-paper realm, and even for some of the dreamy paper-and-pen set whose optimism for the way things were left them with about fifteen Moleskine "journals" with a false start of a half-dozen hand-written pages.
posted by sonascope at 11:39 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


oh goodness, I was trying to find an excuse to post this for about three days last week.

When I heard about the app, I fell in love with it. Connecting through long-form communication with strangers around the world! That's got my name written all over it!

But that was part of the problem for me. Why do I keep connecting with strangers? What about the friends I've already made, close to home? What about my next door neighbors who are AWESOME yet I've never invited over for dinner?

So, I uninstalled it. It's a really cool resource, but I really need to focus on the people within arms reach right now.
posted by rebent at 12:14 PM on October 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


Dear Lisa,

As I write this, I am very sad. Our president has been overthrown and replaced by the benevolent General Krull. All hail Krull and his glorious new regime!

Sincerely, Little Girl
posted by Servo5678 at 12:41 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I’ve been on Slowly for a few weeks now. The people I’ve met are nice — no weirdos or spammers, yet. And there’s a nice anticipation to the screen that shows you which letters are on their way. I like the delayed gratification, and there’s no pressure to reply right away.

But most of the people I’ve matched with are 18 – 25, which is way younger than me and it’s hard sometimes to find relatable things to talk about. I suspect these conversations will fizzle out after a while, but until then it’s a cute distraction in my life.
posted by Banknote of the year at 1:14 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also, the gender options are sadly retrograde. The only options are male and female, and the avatars all follow gender norms. (You choose from their avatars, with different options for male and female.) I struggled to find an avatar that fits with how I present, and my BF uninstalled it because he couldn’t find any long-haired men in the avatars.
posted by Banknote of the year at 1:18 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Eh. I just created a Gmail account for my little girl, mainly to reserve her username as Gmail gets more and more overcrowded. Someday, when she's older, I'll let her know about it. She can go in and change the password, and it will be her account.

In the meantime, when this kind of urge hits me, I just email my future daughter about what she was like and what was going on when she was two.
posted by Naberius at 2:16 PM on October 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


This reminds me of something an old friend once told me about experiencing, this Japanese app from at least a few internets ago called BottleMail. (See also.) You could upload an image into a bottle, and it would randomly, anonymously send it to another BottleMail user somewhere in the world. If you left the app running, eventually a bottle would wash up on your beach UI, and if you clicked on the bottle, you'd get a postcard from parts unknown. If you left the app running without opening bottles, the beach would eventually become a bit littered with bottles. It truly sounded adorable.

Now I wish I were at the beach. Or in Japan. Or living in a beach app. Soon enough...
posted by limeonaire at 3:19 PM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


jkaczor: The number of times a browser has crashed and eaten my "masterful ream of text"

For my part, I consider this a feature not a bug.
posted by tomp at 10:37 PM on October 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


I have this idea of creating a site that replicates the "feel" of Usenet back in the old days. It would work like a regular forum, but new posts would only appear once a day. In the 24 hours in between updates, you could browse or post, but your posts would only be visible at the next update period. The idea is to slow down the pace at which conversations happened, which I believe would result in people writing lengthier, more meaningful posts, and taking their time to compose replies*. I'm imagining that's what this app is trying to do as well.

* Yes I know there were many parts of Usenet where that wasn't true
posted by destrius at 11:53 PM on October 16, 2018


Has anyone seen a version of this for kids? I can imagine a well and truly moderated and restricted app where kids could connect with other kids around the world would be welcomed. Of course as pointed out previously there are a couple of international real life friends they could be writing to...
posted by sophrontic at 8:07 AM on October 18, 2018


If you're on Verizon, text messages already do this.
posted by "mad dan" eccles at 8:31 AM on October 18, 2018


I signed up after reading about it here and so far I have to say it is a really nice experience. It's a bit awkward in the beginning - but then which conversation with a new person isn't? After a few "letters" some people just stop, but those who don't are usually quite interested in keeping the conversation going and that's really something that's been missing from the usual social media apps in quite a while.
posted by dominik at 5:59 AM on November 13, 2018


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