Some of my strongest friendships involve friends who live thousands of miles away. At one point, we all lived in the same city together, but life took us all in different directions (physically and figuratively) over the years.
You’ve probably heard of the familiar adage, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” which is often used to console someone who is being separated from loved ones. But if you don’t already know, I’m here to tell you that this is not true. It’s not the distance that makes the heart grow fonder—it’s the many little gestures that occur despite the distance. It’s the random video chats, the surprise packages in the mail, and—perhaps most importantly—the forwarded memes captioned plainly with, “this is u.”
When left untended, distance can make the heart forget. It’s happened to many friendships; neither person puts in the work to grow the relationship, and as a result, it dies. It’s true of most relationships, near or far.
My closest friends live in New York, Asia, and Europe, while I’m based in Los Angeles. Even though I haven’t seen them in over a year, and we’re all in different time zones, our bonds are as strong as ever. Here are some ways we maintain and grow our long-distance friendships, especially during a time when we’re unable to get together physically for the foreseeable future.
You’re probably thinking a weekly catch-up session with multiple friends is overkill. But hear me out. A catch-up session can be a number of things, from a more involved video chat over FaceTime to a quick text convo before bed. Switch it up with different groups; maybe this week involves a group text chain with old coworkers, a video call with high school friends, and a phone call with family, but next week it’s reversed. Some friends prefer to text, while others are more inclined to call. Find what works for you, and make sure you’re consistent!
Virtual Game Night
I always look forward to game night with friends. It’s a get-together that doesn’t rely on life updates, which can mean less pressure. My friends and I host game night using Jackbox, a platform where you can virtually play a vast collection of (paid) games with friends and family. You can purchase game starter packs starting from $25. Only one person needs to buy games to host a game room for others. For something less involved, I like using the in-app games on House Party.
Another relationship-building activity that can be done remotely sparks meaningful conversations and requires no updates about your life! Each month, one of us picks a book to read and reconvene the next month to share our thoughts on it. Monthly themes or genres are an easier way to choose books. Many books also come with discussion guides, which are helpful to guide the conversations. For books that don’t come with a guide, there are plenty available online. A book club helps me stick to that new year’s resolution to read more books and bring me closer to my friends as we read together. There’s nothing like experiencing a delicious story together.
Like the book club, a cooking club is an exciting way to break up the monotony of my weekly meals. We take turns choosing new recipes to cook and prepare them separately. Afterward, we share photos of the finished product and get together to debrief. Sometimes the recipe is so complicated that all of the photos are disasters. Other times, it’s much easier than anticipated and ends up being added to the regular cooking repertoire. Either way, it’s a fun way to build or improve on another skill and share a more substantial meal with friends remotely.
Group Spotify Playlist
There are days when I miss discovering music, long before song algorithms ruled my playlists (am I dating myself?) and removed the need to find new songs on my own. My most significant friendships have their own soundtrack, a song for each milestone in the relationship. And as friendships grow, so do their soundtracks. I’m part of shared playlists on Spotify where my friends and I add songs that we think the other would like. Music is naturally intimate, and sharing songs is a unique way to keep friendships thriving.
Celebrate Holidays—big and small
As I became older, I started deprioritizing holidays. I stopped buying gifts and generally made less fuss around birthdays. It wasn’t until I started feeling disconnected from the people I cared about did I realize how important it was to celebrate holidays both big and small. Don’t underestimate the seemingly insignificant days, either—celebrations, even when they’re remote, can let friends know you’re thinking of them, even if it’s just sending a donut to a friend who’s obsessed with them on National Donut Day. In a time when everything is digitized, a physical gift can make your physical presence felt.