The Long-Distance Friendship Guide
Life after the (ongoing) pandemic led to increased rates in remote work *and* remote friendships. Here's how to keep friends close, even when they're far away.
By Lauren Blue
Art by Yasmine Lavoine Poniatowski
During my entire young adulthood, I built my friendships on a solid foundation of togetherness.
In high school, we were imprisoned together from seven to four every day — our entire lives revolved around who friends with whom. Echelons were formed based on these groupings. You took pride in your alliances, texting each other plans to dress alike, akin to donning a sports jersey to show on which team you stood. Except it was Texas in 2016, and the group chat chose between wearing giant T-shirts with Nike shorts or “dressing cute.”
I lived in a sorority house in college when classes were completely online because of the pandemic. No visitors were allowed into the house, and while we were technically allowed out, there wasn’t anywhere to go or anything to do, which resulted in a Legally Blonde-esque shelter in place. Your friend groups were defined by who had to quarantine when a COVID exposure occurred. Entire groups were locked away at a time, drawing a clear line in the sand where one posse started and another ended, these lines lasting for the rest of our time at school.
Like most young people, I was shortsighted and didn’t think about how far apart we would eventually be. Sure, when I was at school, I was away from my high school friends and vice versa during the summer, but the seasonal rotation of friend groups became commonplace. We were a well-oiled machine that knew exactly how to pick up where we left off.
In May, I graduated from college and moved back to my parents’ house, leaving behind all my friends at school while my hometown friends moved away. There was now an error in the system. I dove headfirst into unexplored territory: the long-distance friendship. As I approach my 3-month no-near-friend-iversary, I have perfected the art of faraway friends. Here are my tips to ensure distance makes the heart grow fonder.
When you can’t see your friends in person, you will miss them. However, wallowing in your platonic longing isn’t productive, so let's project that friendship onto online personas! Experts debate the healthiness of parasocial relationships, and to skeptics, I say, try watching The Real Housewives when craving a girl-group hangout, and get back to me. Comfort shows, influencers, podcasts, etc. may help fill the void that distance leaves!
I’m well aware that society has moved on from Snapchat. The social currency streaks provided have long faded away, and many readers might not even have the app anymore, but I urge you not to write off that little ghost. These quick, meaningless selfies, private stories posts, and one-line chat zingers create daily conversation without the pressure of a specific topic or entire life catch-up. For example, the other day, I got a Snapchat from my friend in PA school that said, “Just decapitated a dead body,” which is a tad too morbid for a text and doesn’t warrant a FaceTime; Snapchat is the perfect place to receive this shocking life update (and learn more about PA school, because why is that a part of the curriculum?).
While Snapchat might be the place for casual convos, you still need a place for long-form storytelling. Some might immediately think of FaceTime or phone calls for these moments, but we’re all operating on different schedules now. Calls may go unanswered, and instead of feeling close to your friends, you might feel brushed aside for them not picking up or guilty when you can’t answer and forget to call back. Enter the voice memo. It can communicate all the same personality and pizzazz as a call but fit into each person's schedule. Consider it a miniature friend-exclusive podcast.
Consume the Same Content
When you are near your friends, you often watch movies or TV shows together, read the same books, and listen to the same playlists in the car. Bonding over this content might be one of the first things to go because it was born out of convenience. It is no longer as simple as walking into your living room and joining your friend on the couch as they watch a movie. As a self-proclaimed professional fan girl, I’m telling you, there is no connection like the one formed when obsessing over the same thing. Start a book club, or if a song reminds you of a friend, send it to them!
The reality of long-distance is that even if you stay in contact, you’ll spend more time alone. If you struggle with independence, you might need to rebrand doing things by yourself. When going out to dinner alone, it’s not that you don’t have friends nearby—you’re exuding what the kids these days call main character energy. You're mysterious! Everyone in the restaurant is wondering what your story is! You’re taking control and doing what you want, even if it means doing it alone! You don’t need to wait until you have a plus one to enjoy life.
Reach out to Randos
As my Girl Scout Troop used to sing, “Make new friends but keep the old.” Just because you are far away from your besties doesn’t mean you can’t meet new people, so reach out to that random friend from middle school you haven’t spoken to in years or the woman you swore was your twin flame when you exchanged numbers in the bar’s bathroom after telling her you loved her lipgloss. You can find friendship in the strangest corners of life, and you never know who might end up being the Nicole Richie to your Paris Hilton.
Always Have Your Next Meetup on the Calendar
My final tip is that even if it is months away, always know you will see each other next. These plans take away the anxiety surrounding the uncertainness of your friendship's future. It also reminds you that all my other coping mechanisms are temporary, and you will eventually reunite with your pals, even if it’s just for a weekend.