Feeling far from a friend?
Best friend moving to another city, or even country? Met some amazing people while travelling, and now everyone is scattering around the globe like leaves in the wind? Or even met someone interesting online? Friendships can be difficult to maintain when you are not geographically close. After all, it is so much easier to connect to someone who is physically in front of you.
However, in this increasingly globalised world of ours, long-distance frienships are becoming increasingly common. The good news is that technology is definitely advancing fast enough to keep up with everyone's increasingly international network, and can do a lot to close those many miles between you and your friends. This doesn't mean that it won't still require effort and persistence to keep up a close connection, though. But if they are truly a good friend, they are worth it, right?
Follow these steps to make sure your long-distance friendship is as alive, rewarding and fun as it ever was.
- Think hard about your friendship, and face the cold, hard truth: is this someone you can imagine talking to for hours, and wanting to talk to for hours, in five years' time? Sometimes even friends who are close at hand do not even pass this test, and the question becomes more pressing when it concerns investing the time and effort in a long-distance friendship. It might seem cold, but if this person is making you feel at all unhappy or is a negative influence, perhaps their distance is actually a blessing in disguise, and you don't need them in your life.
- They passed the above test? Great! The next step is to, if you don't already, get Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook and basically be signed up to a host of ways of keeping in easy contact with people. Many people condemn social media like Facebook for being shallow but when you are far from your friends it makes sharing your life with so SO MUCH easier. Skype of course is invaluable for free international video calls, and if you have a Smartphone, free instant messaging such as Whatsapp allows you to constantly exchange messages. Trust me, if you skip this step you are making the maintenance of your long-distance friendship much more difficult that in needs to be.
- Check in regularly. Don't get lazy about keeping in regular contact. It might just be a quick message with a link to something funny that made you think of your friend. The smallest gesture becomes magnified with distance, and can mean the difference between chatting on a regular basis and months of silence.
- Be honest and open. When you are not in someone's physical presence it is extremely difficult to read that person's real emotional and mental state, and vice-versa. Even video calling on Skype can't beat real in-person interaction. That is why you will need to make an extra effort to communicate effectively in a long-distance friendship. If you are upset or bothered by something your friend has done, you need to make it known rather than let it stew, unseen, only to burst out at some inopportune moment in your bewildered friend's face. That being said...
- Communicate authentically but with sensitivity. As pointed out above, emotions can be hard to read halfway across the world. Therefore if you have something negative to communicate, make sure you do it in a thoughtful, sensitive way, sharing your feelings rather than accusing. The advantage of a long-distance friendship is that you will more likely have some breathing space to calm down if there is a conflict, so there is less chance of you saying/doing something rash that you might regret later.
- E-mail, or even snail mail. It is fine to send messages over IM services, but sometimes a nice, long, personally written e-mail goes a long way in showing that someone is important to you, and that you are taking the effort to sit down and dedicate time to writing to them. If you want to go all out, you can even try a traditional handwritten letter. It will take longer to arrive, but will mean so much more when it does.
- If possible, arrange to see one another. If time and circumstances allow, arrange to visit one another, even if it is only once in a blue moon. The time spent together will be truly invaluable, precisely because it is so rare. It will not only be wonderful to be reunited in person with your buddy, but it will also give you something to look forward to together, and reminisce on after. Share memories and experiences are vital to a friendship, and harder to cultivate in long-distance ones.