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Illustration of people chatting across different platforms
April 24, 2020
3 mins read

How to make long-distance friendships work

Sometimes life is like an extended episode of Scooby-Doo where the gang splits up and looks for clues.

Except instead of looking for clues, you’re looking for job opportunities, and instead of coming together to unmask a bumbling villain, you just live in a different city from your friends forever. Ruh-roh!

Moving away from good friends is, unfortunately, part of life. I’ve lived in several cities now, and any time I’ve had to move, I’ve made some kind of pact with my friends to “stay in touch.” This usually means sporadic Facetime calls, a tag in a meme here or there, and gushing messages on special occasions.

The current coronavirus outbreak has made me feel like I’m in long-distance relationships with all my friends. We’re all adapting to new methods of communication right now.

I’ve learned some things from my long-distance friendships that I’ve been trying to apply to local friends whom I can’t see in person right now, either. These tips can help you stay connected to those you care about—whether they’re in a different country or just a few blocks away.

1. You can still be friends...

It might feel terrible to be separated, but you don’t have to lose out on the friendship. There’s no rule that says you can’t be friends with someone who lives in a different place than you. The connection you’ve built in person can carry on, even at a distance.

“Staying in touch” is possible, and it doesn’t always take a lot of effort—it can be as simple as keeping up a Snapchat streak once a day (because why not prolong Snapchat’s slow demise a little longer).

2. ...but your friendship will be different.

This long-distance friend isn’t going to be the one you go to parties with every Friday night, obviously (especially while we're physically distancing). If they were before, it might take a while to adjust into the kind of relationship that’s possible when you’re long-distance friends.

Instead of going out together, you can chat on the phone, play video games, or even read a book at the same time and chat online about what you thought!

3. Go beyond “staying in touch”

The term can be a platitude, so regardless of how much you communicate, stay friends rather than just stay in touch. Just because you’re speaking more infrequently doesn’t mean that your conversations have to be surface-level. I’ve found that my friends outside my Vancouver bubble (or wherever I happen to be) have given me really great advice.

A bit of distance from your friends can make for an interesting perspective on the other person’s life, as it allows for some more objectivity. Don’t be afraid to open up and share!

4. Look ahead...

It can feel like there’s a lot of obstacles to seeing a long-distance friend again, from money to other commitments to our current situation that makes it hard to travel. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t look forward to it. It may not be next week, but we’ll be able to visit other places again eventually. 

You also never know where you’ll cross paths with someone—once, I accidentally ran into my Grade 8 Social Studies teacher from Calgary in London. It’s a small world, after all (now try getting that out of your head).

5. ...and look back

No matter how far apart or how little you speak, the time you and your friend spent together was important, and you’ll always have those memories to reflect on.

While it’s great if you can feel close to a friend who lives across the country (or across the world) from you, it can be hard to maintain the level of connection you might need in a friendship. Don’t get discouraged, and remember the great times you and your friend shared together.

You can always try to rekindle the friendship if you end up in the same place in the future. And if you feel like your friendship has really “ended”, that’s okay, too. Sometimes people grow apart—and you never know who you’ll meet next.

Reuniting makes it all worth it

It can feel strange to meet up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Once, I had a visit from a high school buddy I hadn’t seen for over two years. I was nervous that the time apart would feel like a wedge between us, but it was really just an opportunity for some great conversations.

Soon, we were able to joke around just like we used to. It made me realize that a strong friendship can survive anything, and that you don’t have to see someone every day to feel close to them.

The past couple months have taught me that you never know what’s going to happen, and it’s important to cherish your friends while at the same time taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. So don’t be afraid of following your life where it leads you—the friends that matter will always be there when you come back.