It was plain and it was simple. I realized that pretty early on. What we were creating — the thing that was growing out from More Love Letters — was plain and simple. It was bare-boned. It was timeless. It wasn’t something we anticipated when we bought the domain name or created the website. But tiny ripple after tiny ripple and we suddenly came to realize: “The world actually needs this.”

My journey to create More Love Letters started long before I ever even had the company in mind. I was two months out of college. I was at odds with the world. I was living in New York City and it felt like the most impossible battle of my day was trying not to cry during random subway rides for no apparent reason. I felt lonely. I felt disconnected. I struggled to act like I was doing just fine when really I was craving for someone to just reach out and talk to me, connect with me and tell me that it would not always feel this way.

My mother. She gets connection. She always has and she probably always will. Even when the rush of cellphones and social media swept through the culture, she never bought one. She never created an account. She stuck to phone calls that were still hooked up to a wall inside the house, and answering machines with custom messages, and love letters. All throughout growing up, that was the connecting point between my mother and I— love letters tucked for me to find hidden in the places I went and the things I would come to see.

 

So on those subways rides— the lonely ones where no one talked or spoke or said even more than a word to one another— I started writing those same kinds of love letters that my mother had written to me and tucking them throughout New York City for strangers to find. Through the power of social media and blogging, I spent the next year of my life mailing 400 letters to strangers across the world who read of what I was doing and wanted a reason to wait by the mailbox. I knew then, in those 400 letters, that something was missing. We were hungry for something. We were getting more distant. We were more connected than ever before and yet all the screens glowing around a dinner table only seemed to make us more distant.

Since that October day in 2010, More Love Letters has stretched across the world. It’s no longer just a lonely girl and her satchel full of love letters. It’s a tribe of honest hearts and passionate individuals who prove daily that the bones of what we want in this increasingly digital age is really simple: we want to be seen. We want to be heard. We want to hear, with no ruffles or frills, that we matter. That someone cares. That tomorrow, if we were gone, someone will take notice.

It all boils down to connection. More than connection, and even stronger than connection, it boils down to what happens after that first connection is made. All the little touch points that equal up into something so much bigger. It is showing up for one another. Taking big risks for one another. Sitting beside someone you love and not even having to say a word, just listening to their heavy breathing as they spill their heart out to you and try to make some sort of sense through the nonstop tears. Holding someone’s hand when the tears have dried up and maybe only saying two words. Just two words. “You’re okay.” You’re okay.

Life isn’t what I thought it would be. Everything I used to think mattered so much — the social media, the number of followers, the retweets — doesn’t matter nearly as much anymore.

Not after you are clutching the words of strangers who sat down to write to you with no agenda or hope of ever even getting a letter back. It has nothing to do with the “likes” or the “hearts.” It’s just showing up for other people. Because we’re human. And humans need humans more than anything. It’s plain and it’s simple. And at the same time, it’s everything.

Photos: Tiffany Farley

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Writer and TED speaker Hannah Brencher, 25, pins her passions to projects that bring the human touch back into the digital age. Hannah is the founder of The World Needs More Love Letters — an internationally recognized organization that harnesses the power behind social media to mobilize and empower individuals through tangible acts of love. More Love Letters is active across 6 continents, 47 countries, all 50 states, and over 100 college campuses. Hannah was named one of the White Houses’s “Women Working to Do Good,” a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service and the 2013 Honoree for the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. She has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, BBC News, Glamour and Oprah. She recently accepted her first book deal with Howard Books of Simon and Schuster. Her memoir “If You Find This Letter” will be in bookstores worldwide in Winter 2015.

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