Moving away from friends and family is never easy. Despite the distance, however, there’s a ton you can do to keep your relationships healthy and resilient. Below we offer a few tips on how to stay connected. Not all of them will apply to every reader and every long-distance relationship, but a few of them are bound to prove helpful. Here we go!
Embrace Modern Technology
Fortunately, for all of us, modern technology is making it ever-easier to feel like you’re “right next door” even if you’re hundreds of miles—or half-a-world—away. Don’t hesitate to exploit these technologies to the full. Video calling platforms like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime are getting better all the time. Experiment to see what works best for you. Also, think about time zone differences and try to establish a specific calling window that works for everybody. That way, everybody is on the same page and nobody forgets when it’s time to chat.
Experiment with Social Media
Social media are ubiquitous and probably overused, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t effective when it comes to helping you stay in touch with friends and family. Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and almost every other major social media platform out there has some potential role to play in helping you stay connected. Explore that potential. Find out what’s on offer. Consider paying for higher-quality features if they’re available. Various social media platforms allow you to create private groups and chats, a great—and usually secure—way to share updates and memories with a select audience. And social media are obviously ideal for sharing photos and videos. Indeed, it’s getting hard for some of us to remember a world without social media!
Join Online Communities and Share Activities
Beyond the main social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, there’s an entire universe of online groups, forums, and sites for users with common interests. This is a fantastic way to share experiences and activities with friends and family and communicate freely. Virtual events, for example, are a great way to bring everyone together, as are webinars, workshops and meet-ups. Online book clubs, movie nights, and cooking and fitness classes are increasingly common, and convenient apps that help people connect in these spaces continue to proliferate. Fantasy sports apps often absorb entire extended families or groups of friends. It’s great to see.
Keep Things Personal
Remember too: as wonderful as the Internet is, personalized messages and letters never go out of style. Couples who happen to be separated by distance love receiving a handwritten letter or note from their significant other, even if comes by so-called “snail mail.” Almost universally, a letter to a friend or family member is rated more highly than an email or text. Care packages, too, are a great way to show someone you care about them. Cards work as well, and it doesn’t have to be a special occasion. Like a handwritten letter, they offer something personal that electronic communication can’t match.
Don’t Forget to Visit in Person
While the Internet can help keep all of us connected across vast distances, it can never replace the absolute joy that accompanies a face-to-face meeting. For this reason, always take the time to plan regular visits with friends and family. Whether it’s a week in the sun together, a weekend in your parents’ guest room, or even a few hours together over dinner, make the time, and make it a regular thing. Also, if it can be done, bring the whole family together now and again. For many people, just the idea that they’re going to see everyone at some point makes them happy. Many people take the opportunity to turn a visit into an entire vacation; some actually turn their vacations into full-blown reunions. Do what works best for you.
Live-Streaming Special Occasions
Live-streaming apps are changing the world and making distance increasingly irrelevant. One of the most interesting and satisfying live-streaming experiences I ever had was watching my Aunt Eileen get married at a resort in the Seychelles—in real time. Never turn down the chance to join a virtual celebration marking a birthday, holiday and other milestone. You’re never going to make it to all of them in real life, so take advantage of powerful live-streaming apps like Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Twitch and Zoom. It’s the next best thing to being there in person. If you’re especially forward-thinking, you’ll combine your virtual presence with a real-world card, gift or letter (see above!). Watching your Mom get flowers from you on Mother’s Day—in real time via Facebook Live? Awesome stuff!
Be Open to Giving and Receiving Emotional Support
No matter how far away you are, and what technologies you’re using to bridge the distance, remember to provide the people in your life with emotional support. Listen to what they have to say, and give them the chance to do the same for you. Seek support from friends and family if you need it, and share your feelings and experiences. Don’t let distance interfere with the way you share your feelings with the people you care about. Make yourself heard, and give yourself a chance hear what others are saying.
Put Quality Ahead of Quantity
When you’re interacting with friends and family across vast distances, make the most of the time you have. Prioritize meaningful conversations and avoid distractions like television, video games, projects for work, or anything else. Remember, the time of everyone involved is valuable. Don’t waste it. Stay focused on what matters.
Manage Time Zone Differences Effectively
As noted above, take time zone differences into account when you set a time for online group calls, events or activities. Try to avoid changing that time after you set it. At the same time, be flexible and understanding and prepare for occasional glitches. People lead busy lives, so cut them some slack.
It’s important to remember that relationships evolve. That’s true whether people are separated by five feet or 5000 miles. So your relationships are going to change after you move away—it’s inevitable. Do your very best to embrace this change. Roll with the punches. Celebrate the fact that the people you know—and you yourself—are growing. It’s part of life.
So, don’t forget: no matter how far away you are from those you care about, modern technology can do much to bridge the gap. Exploit video calling apps to the full, and set a regular time so everybody knows when to be online. Think carefully about time zones, and pick times that work for everybody.
Social media platforms are an invaluable resource as well, and online communities and activities—and clubs—are growing all the time. Make the most of them. Live-streaming, too, is an incredibly impressive technology that’s increasingly easy to use.
But remember also that the old ways are still sometimes best. Handwritten letters, cards, and gifts never go out of style. And be sure to visit friends and family in person, even if such visits are only occasional. Make your visits part of a larger vacation, or invite people to join you on vacation. Both approaches can work incredibly well.
Also, get used to being a virtual spectator and embrace live-streaming. After all, living so far away, you’re never going to make it to every major event or celebration.
Whatever form they take, make your interactions with friends and family count. Don’t waste time. Avoid distractions. Listen to others, and give them the chance to truly listen to you. And finally, remember that your relationships will change over time. It’s inevitable, so roll with it.
Staying close to friends and family after moving far away is a challenge—no doubt about it. But it’s a challenge that’s becoming less insurmountable all the time, thanks in large measure to the incredibly diverse and powerful electronic tools we have available to us. Distance is still a burden, of course, but it’s a burden that’s becoming far easier to bear.