It’s safe to say that in March of last year, most of our lives changed – thanks COVID. Restaurants closed, gyms shut down, we pivoted to working from home, some of us moved back in with our parents.
And me? Within one week of March last year, my life changed drastically. I left my home for the last two and a half years, London, and moved back in with my parents in Sydney, after two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine. Did I want to? No (sorry mum and dad). Did it feel like I had to? Yes.
I got to hug approximately none of my friend’s goodbye, due to the lockdown rules at the time. I’m not telling you this because I want sympathy – many, many people have had it much worse in the pandemic, and I’m privileged to have made it home at all – but because I’m now an expert at navigating long-distance friendships. 16,983 km long, in fact.
This is yet another collective experience of our post-pandemic world. Whether your friends are on the other side of the world, the country, or even the other side of the city, it’s likely you’ve had to navigate changing friendships.
The good thing about friendships is that they’re flexible, not fragile. The science proves it. In fact, previous research has suggested that there are two dimensions of closeness – feeling close and behaving close. That means, regardless of if you see your friends in person, you can still maintain feelings of emotional closeness.
Another study found that long-distance friendships have tremendous potential for resiliency. Whether your friends live right around the corner or on the other side of the globe, the perceived social support is the same. Long-distance friends are actually expected to provide significantly more perceived emotional support (take that, London pals!).
The Latch has three ways you can maintain your long-distance friendship:
Set a virtual date
Whether it’s weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, set a virtual date for you and your bestie. You can make an effort to catch up on each other’s lives, or just watch a movie together.
Sometimes, my favourite thing to do with friends is just sitting and doing nothing – you can do this as well. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even organise a game or quiz night with a group of different friends; the night is guaranteed to end in laughter, and some new in-jokes.
Put their birthdays into your phone
As a December baby, my birthday already carries important weight. And in long-distance friendships, where you can’t get away with just saying it in person accompanied by a hug, birthdays now carry even more weight.
Last night I received a slightly crumpled box of birthday goodies in the mail, from two of my best friends in London (thanks Nicole, thanks Vick!). That was on top of the Instagram stories they posted on the day – the true sign of online friendship. It warmed my heart and made me feel oh so special.
Friendship is all about reciprocation, so I’m planning to put their birthdays into my phone. More than that, I’m going to make sure to do something just as special for their birthdays. You should too – even if you can only afford to send a hand-written card.
Keep up with the insignificant stuff
Although there are definitely major life events you’re going to want to share over Zoom, not everything that happens in your life is worth hopping on a video call over.
Sometimes it’s the small stuff that keeps a friendship going. Looking at my WhatsApp chat with my friends, there’s TikTok links, dessert rankings, discussions of our dream engagement rings (none of us have romantic partners, by the way), and memes about how hot Jude Law is in The Holiday.
And if bonding over Jude Law’s hotness isn’t friendship, I don’t know what is.