Pen pals – how teens made long distance friends in a pre-digital age
I found a Pen Pals column in a magazine from 1981 with teenagers asking other teens to write to them.
This was an era before Snapchat and Instagram. But it does show that even the pre-digital age, teens were hooking up with total strangers over long distances. However, this kind of hooking up was seen as a broadly positive thing in the 70s while its digital equivalent today causes concern and anxiety.
The Pen Pal ads, pleading for new potential friends to write, tell us so much about who we were back then. Let me give you a random sample:
“Male futurist requires good looking girl interested in Spandau, Duran, Depeche Mode and Human League. Other interests include extra-terrestrial beings (UFOs).”
“Four girls want to hear from four boys. Likes: Madness, Specials and all ska. We dislike heavy metal and punk.”
“18 year old mod needs cheering up by nice girl.”
“Hey there all you male headbangers! We are three female headbangers who love all heavy metal groups, especially Rainbow, Motorhead, Sabbath and Quo.”
“Ethel (16) in to Duran Duran, Trebor Mints, Seamus Meaney, Salsa, Depeche Mode, Dali, The Royal Family, vanity and lots more.”