For millennials, (and some of us “old people”), making friends online is no longer the stranger-danger insane thing to do. While there are still just as many threats out there with crazy people running amuck online, it is considered perfectly normal to have several close online friends, some of which that you haven’t even met face-to-face.
Thanks to social media, fandoms, and our lives practically revolving around the internet, it is easier than ever before to meet people that you share interests with all over the world. But keeping in touch with your long-distance friends can sometimes be just as difficult as keeping up with those who live close by. Here are some thoughtful things that you can do to maintain your long-distance friendships.
Be Aware of Your Friend’s Communication Style
If you are the type of person who gets separation anxiety if you leave your phone in the other room, it can be frustrating when a friend doesn’t immediately text you back. Some people may take a few hours, or a few days, to respond to your message. But their slow reply doesn’t mean that they don’t care. They may just be taking the time to come up with a thoughtful response or they could be busy. Everyone communicates differently so gauge if your friendship would flourish best with daily texts, an ongoing email chain or the occasional phone call.
Treat Phone Conversations or Online Chats Like a Real Get-Together
Even though you are not physically meeting with each other, it doesn’t have to feel that way. Especially if there is a major time difference between the two of you. Rescheduling could be tricky if you decide to back out. Emergencies and real-life situations do come up, but it is important to respect your friend’s time as well. If they’ve taken the time to call and you’re not in the middle of something extremely urgent, take some time to chat.
Don’t Get Caught Up in the Past
Yes, it’s always good to reminisce about the good times you had when you were growing up or living in the same city, but in order to keep your friendship strong, you need to stay informed about each other’s current lives as well. Instead of limiting yourselves to memory lane, keep each other posted on your families, jobs, and weekend plans.
Stay Connected as Much as Possible
Checking in only with big news is nice, but the real depth comes when you know intimate details. Friendships will stay strongest if talking regularly becomes part of your routine, whether that means daily, weekly, or monthly. Text your friend about the little things, like the great new ramen place he’d love or the embarrassing story you know will make her snicker.
Load Up Your Emails with Long Stories
Email is a happy medium when you can’t pin each other down for a phone call, but a text message just won’t do. You can be long-winded with all the juicy details you’ll friend will want to hear about your new job, and the other person can read and reply on his or her own time.
Send a Random Picture
When you have nothing to talk about, but you still want to stay in touch, Snapchat is a great way to keep tabs on each other’s lives without forcing small talk when there is nothing “real” to report. Use the app, or text a picture of your semi-impressive dinner or the wacky outfit your kid picked to get your friend’s reaction.
Video Chat as Often as you Can
Being face-to-face without actually being there is a great way to see your friend’s reaction and emotion instead of simply reading it or communicating through emoticons. Even if you don’t have any big news to report, set aside time for a virtual conversation. Apps like Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangout make it easy to set up, no matter what device you use.
Write Up Some Good Talking Points Before a Call
It may sound silly but for some people, it can be hard to recall all the things they want to share when they finally get a chance to talk on the phone. Carry around a mini notebook, and jot down tidbits you think your friend will want to hear about. Look it over before your call so you’re prepped with funny anecdotes and exciting everyday news.
Do a Little Social Media Stalking
Social media stalking doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It is a great way to stay updated on your friend’s life without having to intrude on their time or your own. Stay posted on your friend’s life by scrolling through his or her social media. Instead of grasping at straws with a “How are things?” text, you can just be straightforward and ask about your friend’s recent hike or 5K.