If you grew up in the early 90’s then you definitely went through the penpal phase. As kids we would write letters at school and mail them through a service or directly to another school in certain countries like the US where your letter if addressed openly would receive a reply from people who had the same interests as you.
It was not an exact science but it was very fun because everyone got to learn about something new and build close relations with people across vast lands and oceans that they didn’t know. Some went to be adopted, receive jobs, donations, scholarships and lots of other things, so you can imagine why everyone wanted to have a penpal. This was at a time when the internet wasn’t very popular let alone easily accessible in countries like mine.
Later though, around 2005, the internet became cheaper and more accessible on both PCs and mobile. We now could use different online services to scour profiles and choose people we wanted to become our penpals. This probably might have been the earliest form of social network before platforms merged them with chat systems such as the UK World’s Biggest Chat by Lycos.
The Slowly app by Why Interactive is a digital letter app very much similar to both a penpal system and post office. It allows the users to sign up very easily, choose an avatar, interests, country, a nickname and write a short bio then start checking through other users and sending them letters.
I’m serious about the letter thing! You write a digital letter complete with a stamp and the message takes long to reach its destination depending on the distance just like a real-world letter would. The same applies to when the person reads it and sends you a reply.
You can also know how often the person responds by seeing when they were last online and their sent to received ratio which shows how often they reply to the messages they receive and so much more. You also collect stamps for every letter you receive from another country and for using the app frequently on some special days. You can also share images but they are limited to a daily quota.
I think the thing that makes the app very addictive and intriguing is not only the friends you make and the exchange of culture, but the feel of writing a letter and having to eagerly sit around waiting for a reply. That kind of anxiety builds very strong relationships and I think is a very strong unique factor that will set it apart from other apps.
With how we love adventure, I’m shocked that the app has only 100,000 downloads so far on Android, even if that seems like an incredible feat for an app that was just added to Google Playstore only 5 months ago.
Slowly is totally free, no premium version or ads. Those who like it have the option to donate to the developer.
I have only been on the app two weeks now and it is definitely cool. Most of the reviews on Google Playstore are overwhelmingly positive too. So, in case you want a pastime making some new real friends around the world, you can check it out for yourself.
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Lawrence writes about tech, lifestyle, politics, business, crypto and occasionally entertainment. He writes for Newslibre and Spur Magazine while consulting with numerous international companies on strategy, community management and marketing.
He has contributed to the journalism, open source, film, youth, web, Andela and Mozilla communities.