Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to start this column. Mostly because there’s a lot going on right now — everyone’s saying that, huh — and a lot of ways to talk about it. How do you address all of the ways this pandemic is affecting our lives? Who am I to say?
I live in a house off campus, in Rochester’s 19th Ward, with two roommates who like baking bread and watching movies. There are lots of windows in our house, and I like sitting by them. Ambulances go by like clockwork, and the 19th bus rolls down the street totally empty. Sometimes, if I wave, the bus driver honks and waves back.
That’s my world right now.
Well, that and Slowly, a free app my friend Ashley showed me.
“It’s a letter sending app,” she told me, and at first, I was skeptical. Doesn’t sending letters over the internet defeat the point of snail mail? But I downloaded it anyway, because I’m a hustler for sending letters. And, also, it was something to do.
When you first open the app, it asks you to select as many interests as you want from a list of 20 or so, like theater, gardening, politics, and climate change, to name a few. Then you put in your name, your location, your age, and the language(s) you speak. You can set the age range and gender of people you would like to hear from, and then you can start writing.
I don’t use many apps. It took me a few days to start using Slowly. Ashley would send me letters from Long Island and I would write back about my unproductivity, the TV shows I’ve been watching, and the reusable acrylic nails I keep popping on and off (the color is called Baby Spice). Then, suddenly, I opened the app to find three letters from people I didn’t know.
Dear Olivia, each one read. One was from a 13-year-old girl from the UK. She told me she was feeling really lonely and that I should download Tik Tok. Another was from a girl who goes by “Q” from Ireland. I’m struggling to keep myself entertained, she said, and therefore, we should be friends. I see we have a lot of common interests, another letter said. Want to be pen pals?
Suddenly, I started using Slowly every day. I’ve gathered a few pen pals, and the app always gives you the option to find new ones. You can either manually browse other accounts with similar interests, or you can get new pen pals via Auto-Match, which means Slowly will pair you with a person based on your interests and age.
I’ve gathered new stamps, new thoughts, and new people to write. Now, more than ever, is the perfect time for this app. Isn’t the idea of sending and receiving sweet and small notes from people around the world exciting? Don’t you want to hear how the rest of the world is going through the exact same thing as you?
I like the idea of talking about nothing to someone I don’t know. Talking to strangers over the internet has never been so exciting. But Slowly feels more important than that, as the mission of the app is to connect like- minded people when none of us can leave our homes. Maybe you’re bored, or maybe you just need somebody to talk to. Either way, try downloading the app and send me a letter. I promise I’ll write back.