The resurgence of Pen Pals

The resurgence of Pen Pals

Oct 18, 2023 Tags 

We are in an era dominated by digital communication, where instant messages and social media are the popular means of communication. However, the age-old tradition of pen pals is making a remarkable comeback in 2023, and people are rediscovering the joy of forging genuine, lasting connections through handwritten letters.  In this article, we'll delve into the resurgence of pen pals and explore the reasons behind this heartwarming trend.


What is a Pen Pal?


Pen pal, also known as “pen friend,” is a term used to refer to an individual with whom you engage in written communication on a regular basis. Formerly, pen pals communicate through handwritten letters sent via postal mail. Nowadays, people use email or online messaging to communicate with their penpals. The primary reason for a pen pal relationship is the exchange of thoughts, experiences, and stories with someone you’ve never met to create a unique and long-lasting connection.


When did Pen Pals become a thing?


Handwritten Letter


The tradition of writing letters dates back centuries. As soon as writing tools were created, people started writing letters to each other. We’re talking about since the 6th century when people were using Quill pens and ink to write on paper. Pen Friendship itself began around the 20th century when schools began promoting the exchange of letters among students to improve their writing skills and gain cultural insights. In 1936, an organization called Student Letter Exchange was created to help students find pen pals worldwide. The organization actually charged a fee for their service. During World War II, soldiers often exchanged letters with strangers from around the world, providing a sense of connection and camaraderie during difficult times.

By the later years of the 20th century, pen pals became a global phenomenon, with people from different countries connecting through written correspondence. In the 1950s, magazines or printed papers would advertise profiles of people looking for pen pals. In 1985, the Prison Pen Pals Project was created to help reduce the prisoner’s feeling of loneliness. Now, there are many pen pals websites that connect people from all over the world via email. Even though there is still the appeal of sending letters by mail, many people prefer to use email. 


Pen Pals Resurgence: Why is having Pen Pals becoming popular again?


Child Writing a Letter


Need to detox from Digital Screens


Even with all of the digital devices available to us and the digital way of making pen friends, the traditional exchange of letters through the post has reemerged and is becoming popular again. One reason for this is that having pen pals serves as a digital detox. As screens continue to infiltrate every aspect of our lives, from smartphones to tablets and laptops, many individuals are experiencing "screen fatigue." Constant notifications, the pressure to respond promptly, and the fleeting nature of digital interactions have left many longing for a more intentional and meaningful way to communicate.

Many people have taken to activities like bullet journaling, scrapbooking, and even painting. Pen pal relationships offer a welcome escape from the digital realm, allowing individuals to slow down, reflect, and express themselves thoughtfully through handwritten letters.


COVID-19 Pandemic


Another reason pen pals relationship became popular is because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a period where many people were separated from their loved ones and social interaction as a whole. Sure, we all communicated digitally through phone calls and Zoom meetings, but that face-to-face interaction was missing. That is why people took to writing letters to their loved ones and new friends to present to them after the pandemic was over. 


It is therapeutic


For many, writing letters to pen pals serves as a therapeutic way of self-expression. Sharing thoughts, dreams, and experiences with a trusted pen pal can be emotionally helpful. There are many things that we may not seem comfortable telling family or friends that we can see physically because we fear that they may judge us. However, this form of communication provides a safe space to confide in someone who may be miles away but feels incredibly close.


People are seeking friend


The resurgence of pen pals isn't confined to a single country or region. It's a global phenomenon, with people seeking connections that transcend geographic boundaries. Pen pals allow individuals to learn about different cultures, languages, and perspectives firsthand. Many people are curious about life in other countries, that is why they look for pen pals who live miles away from them to learn about their culture. 


How to find a Pen Pal?


Joining the pen pal revival is easier than ever. There are many online platforms and social media groups dedicated to pen pals, making it simple to connect with like-minded individuals from around the world. Some apps and websites cater specifically to pen pal matchmaking. All you need is an eagerness to connect and a willingness to join. Here are some websites to get you started.


Global Pen Friends


Global Pen Friends has been a trusted platform for pen pal enthusiasts since 1995. They have a strong emphasis on fostering cultural exchange and global friendship between users of all ages. 

Users can create profiles, specify their interests, and search for pen pals by age, gender, location, or language. You can find travel friends, e-pals, or friends who send handwritten letters via snail mail. 


Pen Pal World


Pen Pal World has an active community of over 3 million users. What sets it apart is its user-friendly interface and active community of members. As a minor, you can also block all adults from contacting, or block users from an entire country.

The website allows you to send messages, connect with potential pen pals, and even send virtual gifts to break the ice. There is no option for travel buddies or snail mail friends but it's a great site for those who enjoy frequent communication and a wide range of pen pal possibilities.


Write a Prisoner


Write a Prisoner is a unique platform that allows individuals to connect with incarcerated pen pals. It serves as a bridge between those in prison and the outside world, offering inmates a chance to communicate, receive emotional support, and maintain positive connections.

This website is not only an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life but also a platform to learn about the challenges incarcerated individuals face. It's an excellent choice for those with a compassionate spirit and a desire to offer support.


Forgotten Soldiers Outreach


This nonprofit organization has been on a mission to bridge the gap between home and the frontlines, ensuring that the brave men and women serving in the military receive the heartfelt support and encouragement they deserve.

In their Write a Soldier platform, you can send positive letters to soldiers to be included in the care packages sent to deployed troops, make financial donations, or volunteer your time to help assemble care packages.

In conclusion, the resurgence of pen pals in 2023 is a heartening reminder that the simple act of putting pen to paper can foster meaningful connections in an increasingly digital world. So, why not embark on your own pen pal journey and experience the magic of handwritten letters?

Have you been looking to buy supplies to write letters? You can check out our ZenPop stationery store for the best stationery deals from Japan. 


This article was originally written by our freelance writer Umm-Kulthum Abdulkareem and edited by us.