An Open Letter to The Open Letter

I recently came across a little rant of mine from a couple years ago, clearly a different, angrier time for me as I come across extra curmudgeonly. But things were different then, we had crack-smoking Rob Ford as Mayor in Toronto (how was that a real thing????) I actually worked all the time instead of merely posting sporadically on this blog, and of course we lived in Toronto back then in our little hippy-filled apartment (which involved the odd “play” in the backyard by our neighbours, also someone was learning to use an accordion.) It was a grouchier time, for sure.

So I found this little diatribe, and while I don’t quite agree with the passionate but venomous take I had on it a couple years ago, I still find it somewhat relevant. And also funny how angry I was about people over-using the Open Letter format.

I will preface this harangue with my (quick) updated sentiments. I do agree with my past self that the Open Letter format is overused and thus abused. I’ll say that due to its inherently passive aggressive nature, it doesn’t come across with the same verve as a strongly worded statement. But I also think I came across a little harshly saying not everyone is special. I was trying to say that not every single person’s opinion is worthy of a revolution, but that you won’t know if yours is unless you make a strong statement and see what happens. If you hide behind a passive-aggressive Open Letter, you’re trying to hide behind the court of public opinion. Sometimes that is appropriate, but most times it isn’t. Two years later the Open Letter is still an annoyingly overused medium, although I am less angry about it at least.

Herewith, some surly grousing from my past self:


Dear Open Letter,

I am writing to you because – excuse me? Are you not listening to me? No f***ing way! But I addressed it to you! I am completely in shock that this doesn’t have your full attention {sarcasm}.

Except I am not really writing to the “Open Letter” I am writing to all of you. In fact, I am writing to all of you to JUST STOP with your open letters. You, the public, have effectively open lettered to death a once interesting form of communication. It has been done to death, and needs to stop. Better yet, allow it to just take a break and only come out for special occasions. Your famous Hollywood dad abused you as a child and you are uncomfortable with the support and vindication he is given by Hollywood? Go ahead, open letter your heart out. You’ve decided Winter gets too much hate so you’ve written an open (love) letter to the polar vortex? Shut the f*** up.

An open letter, to borrow from the be-all-and-end-all that is Wikipedia, is used for a number of reasons, foremost among those “as a last resort to ask the public to judge the letter’s recipient or others involved, often but not always, in a critical light.” To reiterate the first four words in that statement – AS A LAST RESORT. Too often it is the first resort for any individual that wants to share their thoughts and so up it goes on Facebook, Internet comment sections, and badly-spellchecked blogs [edit: ouch, guess I didn’t see myself having one of these two years later!]. You are not the most special person to ever have an opinion. Not everyone is special and certainly not everyone’s opinion. You want to make a statement on the crackiness that is Toronto’s Mayor? Have the cahones to do it. Do not write an open letter to him. You know and I know that it isn’t for him at all. It isn’t even for the people who will read it. It is for you and your own vanity, your belief that your opinion is special and needs to be shared and heard. Maybe it is. But if that is the case, you don’t need an open letter on Facebook to prove it. We live in an age where information is everywhere and everyone has a chance to be heard. If your opinion really is so special, there is a significant chance it WILL get heard. Make a statement! But if you and every other yahoo with access to a computer throws down an open letter then it loses its importance; it’s just one more in a string of insignificant open letters to scroll past while looking for funny cat videos.


Here’s a kitten. See? Open Letter can’t compete with this fluffy cuteness.

That’s not to say that you have to keep all of your opinions to yourself. If you have something to say, this is the age you want to live in. Communication and the ability to self-publish proliferates throughout blogs, Twitter, Facebook [edit: and Instagram and Snapchat too] and other easily accessible mediums.

The “saying” isn’t the problem – but how you say it and what you say, that’s the issue. By using a tired medium, your message becomes tired automatically. Not to mention the passive aggressive nature of an open letter. By definition it is indirect – you are addressing someone by addressing the general public. You are inviting judgement on the addressee, but asking the public to look at the situation through your eyes, through your argument. Why in the hell should we listen to you? You don’t even have the gall to really come out and ask us to listen to what you have to say. Instead, you throw up a whiney open letter to someone else hoping the mob mentality of the “Internets” will hop on their bandwagon, pitchforks out, and share your letter with the smug self-satisfied pretension of those that click but don’t do.

At the end of the day, if you’re writing an open letter to everyone, you’re actually writing it to no one.


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