Web Culture

Fascinating Open Letters the Internet Made Possible

Nancy Messieh 27-12-2013

Open letters are by no means a new concept, and have existed long before the advent of the Internet. Being able to publish just about anything online ourselves, has however, really catapulted the concept of open letters, making it easy to share them with millions of people at the click of a button.


Open letters are often critical missives, aimed at addressing a person publicly. The Internet is home to open letters from celebrities to one another, from fans to celebrities, and from companies to their customers, among many others. We’ve put together a list of the more interesting letters we’ve seen surface on the World Wide Web in the past few years, and here they are, in no particular order.

Sufjan Stevens to Miley Cyrus

Inspired by a series of open letters from Sinead O’Connor to Miley Cyrus, singer Sufjan Stevens decided to get in on the fun. In case you managed to miss all five (yes, count them five) open letters sent to Miley Cyrus by Sinead O’Connor, the story goes like this. Sinead writes a letter to Miley warning her of the dangers of letting the business exploit her as a woman. Miley tweets her responses by attacking Sinead’s mental health. Sinead responds with more letters, this time with a few threats of lawsuits. In the fifth letter, she continues to demand an apology from the young star. None of these letters are half as fascinating, however, as the one Miley got from Sufjan.

Breaking down her song, Get it Right, Sufjan points out all the grammatical mistakes in a letter posted to his Tumblr blog. As if that wasn’t enough, Vice magazine turns up the inception volume on the whole Sinead-Miley-Sufjan open letter saga, with a letter to Sufjan correcting his grammatical mistakes.


Open Letter to JJ Abrams

Taking a slightly different approach, this open letter to JJ Abrams from a Star Wars fan takes on a slightly different format – the video. The letter consists of four rules to follow to make Star Wars “great again.” The video is beautifully illustrated, and will probably appeal to any hardcore Star Wars fan.


With close to 1 million views on the video, it’s clear that the message is reaching some people, if not JJ Abrams himself.

Open Letter from BlackBerry

More fascinating for its mere existence than for its content is this open letter from BlackBerry to its customers. Penned back in October, the letter was published on the BlackBerry website a few weeks after its sale, and $1 billion in losses, in an attempt to allay fears that its customers may have. BlackBerry has since decided against the sale, and is plugging along attempting to keep afloat with stiff competition from the iOS and Android platforms, who have really given BlackBerry a run for its money.


The letter promises BlackBerry’s customers that they can continue to count on the company – and for now – that remains true.


Donald Glover’s Open Letters

Actor, writer and comedian Donald Glover decided to use a slightly different vehicle for a series of open letters he posted online – he used photographs. And where better to share them than on Instagram? Donald Glover’s Instagram account is home to at least seven open letters, scribbled on note paper from the Marriott. Alongside photos with Macklemore and Jhené Aiko are Donald’s letters, which aren’t addressed to anyone in particular, but are private musings that he has made very public.

If anything, these letters will probably make a lot of people fell less alone, when they know that someone like Donald, with a successful career, and huge online following, can doubt himself as well.

McSweeney’s Open Letters

One of the best places to go online to find the most random, creative, and fascinating open letters is McSweeney’s. With page upon page of open letters, dating back to 1999, you’ll find everything here from letters to toddlers to canonical authors. Described as open letters to people or entities who are unlikely to respond, the letters are thought-provoking, amusing, and brilliantly written.


If you’re not sure where to start with McSweeney’s letters, this gem from 2012 addressed to Facebook’s privacy policy is a great place to kick of a few hours of addictive open letter reading.

Which open letters would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments. And if you’re looking for a place to publish your own open letter, rather than just post it on your blog, you might want to consider MyOpenLetter where you can share and read open letters with other netizens. To find out more about MyOpenLetter’s features, be sure to check out our brief breakdown of the site MyOpenLetter: A Web App That Lets You Publish Open Letters Online Read More .

Photo credit: Liz West

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