There’s no such thing as an open letter
The concept of an ‘open letter’ irritates me.
When you send a letter to someone you have the intention of sharing a piece of information with them. It is usually addressed to a single person and if your letter is not received, you consider the whole point missed.
What we’ve come to term ‘open letters’ are blog posts. There’s no point in dressing it up, that’s what they are. Ranty, righteous, sometimes ill-considered blog posts.
The purpose of an ‘open letter’, in theory, is that the main point gets to the person it’s addressed to. But I would argue this comes second to writer’s true objective, which is basically a loud cry of “amirite??!” The ideal result of this being the ‘letter’ gains a swell of support for whatever it is the person was complaining about.
It’s unsurprising that this topic was inspired by the Yelp girl Talia. This has been the latest open letter I’ve come across that has irked me.
Putting her subject matter aside the method of delivery, like most open letters, it didn’t appear to take into account how the person it was aimed at it would receive it. Or it did, she just didn’t care.
I was once told “don’t focus on what you’re trying to say, focus on what people will hear”. It’s a crucial piece of advice for basic human communication.
If you turn up to someone’s front door rearing a pitchfork, you’re unlikely to be met with compliance. Open letters pretty much create this scenario, but online.
While the intent of an open letter is probably pretty genuine, they usually come off smug.
And a note on tone: seriously, at what point did we start to allow and congratulate people talking to each other in the attacking manner that most open letters see? We wouldn’t accept it face to face. It’s a classic case of keyboard warriors if you ask me.
At no point are we told that complaining is a good way to get what you want, and that’s what it feels like an open letter represents. Don’t get me started on the response open letters either.
When you think about it, anything you post online is ‘open’, so addressing something you’ve written to someone is tiresome theatre.
I’m all for people standing up for things they believe in, but the things I really pay attention to are those which are considered and don’t make me feel like I’ve just been talked into.
Until open letters can find a middle ground, I doubt they’ll have the lasting impact of change they hope for beyond a few days of viral glory, if that.