Everyone has a friend in another town, out of state, or overseas – friends from your childhood days, college buddies, colleagues you were close to in another job, etc. Although social media has allowed us to connect with old friends in every part of the world, that doesn’t give you a deep enough connection. Of course, it helps you keep tabs on what they’re up to and so on, but most people tend not to share personal stuff on social media. They only put the good stuff out there for the world to see, not their real selves. So, how do you start getting connected to long-distance friends? And how do you stay connected and make sure the years don’t slip away without enjoying the benefits these valuable life-long relationships can bring you? Here are 21 ways to connect with long-distance friends and ensure that you stay connected for several years.
#1 – Social Media
Despite what I said about social media, it is a fantastic tool to search for and connect to long-lost long-distance friends over the Internet. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are great for finding old friends anew. Older millennials are able to appreciate the value of this because, even though they grew up with the Internet during their teen years, social media didn’t come along until the end of the 20th century with apps like SixDegrees, BlackPlanet, Migente, and others. But it wasn’t until Facebook launched in 2004 and then opened to the public in 2006 that social media finally went mainstream.
Social media is a great way to get in touch with people across the world that you haven’t seen for years. Sadly, although extensive communication tools accompany most social media platforms, it doesn’t allow you to get really personal. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to get connected to long-distance friends.
#2 – Instant Messaging
Messaging apps are actually far more popular than social media platforms, mostly because that’s what we need from social media, anyway. Most people just want to keep in touch with a quick message rather than make a call or put up a post on social media. IM is much faster, and most platforms offer end-to-end encryption for total security and privacy.
#3 – Electronic Mail
Email is a great way to say more than just a couple of lines. Penning your thoughts on email is a great way to keep your friends informed on what’s going on in your life. You can attach videos, photos, and other media to enrich the experience as well. Much of the younger generation thinks that email is outdated, but it is still the best medium for long-form communication that includes multimedia capabilities. Moreover, creating a group ID with multiple emails means you can just type in one ID in the To field and reach several people at a time – a great resource for a group of friends spread out across the country or the world.
#4 – Voice and Video Chat
Voice and video chat now comes integrated with most social media platforms. Whether you prefer Messenger, WhatsApp, Duo, Hangouts, or any other platform, voice and video chat is a great way to connect with a group of friends or on a one-to-one level. This wasn’t true a few years ago when data speeds were too slow to handle real-time video communication. Imagine Skyping someone with an old dial-up connection!
#5 – Voice Memos
Like instant messaging, voice memos are great for short messages, but in your own voice rather than text. Most platforms now have voice messaging options built-in. Instead of typing out your message, why not record yourself speaking? It’s a lot more personal and it will convey a far more accurate version of what you want to say because of the voice intonations and other subtle communication cues.
#6 – Virtual Collaboration
There are several platforms on which you can do things with long-distance friends either as a group or just one-on-one. For example, there are even platforms like Rabb.it that allow you to watch Prime or Netflix movies together from different locations. There are also other options like virtual gaming, virtual book-reading, etc. that you can enjoy as a shared experience.
#7 – Cloud Calendars
Online calendars are great in more ways than one. You can mark dates that are special to your friends, such as birthdays, religious festivals, anniversaries, and so on. You can also share calendars with one or more friends so you’re all on the same page. It’s a great way to stay connected with long-distance friends, especially when our lives are so hectic and there are literally dozens of distractions every day.
#8 – Pick Up the Phone!
The smartphone today is rarely used for what it was originally intended – as a device to make and receive calls. The devices we use are now handheld computers with calling capabilities. In fact, I think we shouldn’t even call them smartphones anymore. Nevertheless, they are a useful tool to stay in touch with friends from afar. Curate your friend list on your phone and put them on speed dial so you can have quick 10-minute conversations when you’re stuck in traffic or commuting to work in public transportation.
#9 – Master the Art of Gifting
If you and your long-distance friends are living in different countries, a good way to stay connected is to send each other care packages with local goodies and delicacies. You don’t have to spend too much money because it’s the thought that counts. There’s a lot you can do with the concept of gifting if you really think about it.
#10 – Connective Technology
Friendship Lamps. If you’ve never heard of them, they’re a pair of lightweight lamps that connect to the local Wi-Fi in different locations and are then hooked up to a single Group ID. You set it up in a way that if one of the lamps is touched on the sensor plate at the top, the other lamp will light up in a particular color no matter where in the world it is. Since they each use their respective Wi-Fi connections to communicate over the Internet, the two lamps can be in adjacent rooms or on different continents!
The best part is that you can add as many Friendship Lamps to the Group ID as you want, without limits. So, if you have 10 friends spread out across the world, each of you can have one and they can all be hooked up to the same Group ID. If one of the lamps is touched, every other lamp lights up in the same pre-chosen color so you’ll know exactly who’s thinking of you. It’s great for long-distance friends, long-distance couples, and even family members separated by distance. A word of warning, though: beware of cheap long-distance friendship lamps and knock-offs.
#10 – Plan an Annual Trip Together
A great way to connect with long-distance friends is to plan a special holiday in a new location each year. That way, each of you gets to fly to a brand new place you’re never seen before, and the thrill of the new experience coupled with the rush of meeting up with old friends will be an absolute treat. It doesn’t have to be very expensive. Get one of the more organized friends to set it all up online. Alternatively, there are a lot of travel agencies that can get great deals for such trips. They’ll do all the hard work of finding the right time for cheaper flights, hotel deals, and more.
#11 – Write a Letter
Snail mail has gotten a bad rap since the advent of electronic mail. But it’s still a fantastic way to communicate your innermost feelings – or just keep your friends up-to-date on the happenings in your life from time to time. There’s nothing as special as receiving a hand-written letter from someone you’re close to. It’s a dying art, so why not revive it?
#12 – Offline Book Club
Why not start a book club with your long-distance friends. We’re all busy but we do find the time to read important stuff as well as stuff that entertains us. Pick a book and get everyone a digital copy from your Amazon account, then set a date to discuss the book. If you want it to be less formal, skip the group discussion and just have a chat group where you each share your thoughts about the story, the characters, and the plot as and when a thought strikes.
#13 – Create a ‘Recommendation Circle’
We’re all consumers at heart, so why not create a group chat to recommend products that you recently bought. It’ll come in handy when someone else in the group needs to buy the same thing. Encourage others to share ongoing deals and discounts, coupons, special offers, etc. It can be on books, electronic items, gifts, etc. and it will serve you well as we enter holiday season 2020. Amazon does it for complete strangers so why not do it among friends who know each other’s tastes and preferences?
#14 – Start an Investment Pool
This novel idea will help the financially inept members of a group of long-distance friends benefit from the investment skills of others. If you’ve made money on your investments, why shouldn’t your friends benefit from your advice? You can each put in a little bit of money to create an investment pool, with each one putting in only as much as they can afford to lose. That’s important because you don’t want to lose your valuable friendship if the investments go sour, as they often can.
It doesn’t even have to be the same amount. For example, if three of you put in $1000, $2000, and $3000, you can split the money you make in the same proportion – 1:2:3. It’s simple and it will avoid any confusion. You get back in proportion to what you put in. The advantage of this is that you have more money to invest as a group rather than as individuals, which could get you better deals.
#15 – Tell Them What Makes Them Special
People rarely do this because we tend to take our friends for granted in the long run. Why not do the opposite and tell each other exactly why we’re friends with them. Make someone feel good by reminding them of their best qualities. And don’t do this randomly, although that works as well; make it a point to tell each one how special they are on a regular basis – monthly, weekly, or whatever. Better yet, make a template that you can share with them. For example, the first line can start with Dear Billy, you’re my friend because… and add some space there for another person to tell Billy why he’s important to them. Put one line for each friend (including yourself) and share the template with them. Include a ‘Fill and Return By…’ reminder so they can add it to their calendars.
#16 – Plan Your Individual Futures – Together
Friends are in the best position to give you advice about your future, so how about sharing your future plans as a group and then giving each other encouragement to achieve your individual goals? There’s a famous story about two people. Both were ambitious young men in their 20s, and both wanted to conquer the world, but in an ethical manner. Through the years, they kept asking each other how far they’d reached in achieving their goals. They didn’t rest until, one day, one friend was one of the richest businessmen in the country and the other was the Attorney General. Each of them rose to the top of their chosen fields because they kept goading each other to succeed. Can your group of friends inspire each other this way, constantly keeping tabs on how each of you is progressing down your own path to success?
#17 – Celebrate your Successes
Keep your fingers on the pulse of your long-distance friends’ lives. Follow them on social media. If they post something that’s special to them, give them a call to congratulate them rather than simply hit the Like button or put a random comment. Make it personal. If LinkedIn reminds you that someone got a new job, pick up the phone and tell them you’re happy for them. In the end, these are the moments we truly cherish, when someone we love and respect showers their personal attention on us. And it will tremendously strengthen your friendship as you grow older.
#18 – Share Stuff That’s Important To You
Found a book really exhilarating? Share it. Read something that made you ROFL? Share it. Have a thought about what’s going on in the news? Share it. But wait, don’t just share it on your generic social media posts. Share it with a close group of friends so they can put in their two cents as well. Sharing things that you feel are important gives your long-distance friends a chance to appreciate and understand you in a deeper way. It will also help align all of you to the same values over time. That’s what friendship is about, isn’t it?
#19 – Involve your Families
Get your spouses together, and the kids. Make as many additional connections as you can because these are lifetime investments in your family’s future. It expands the reach that your family has if a crisis hits, it helps your kids learn important values like friendship and loyalty, and it’s a healthy practice to let your spouse in on the inner circle of friends you had even before you fell in love or got married.
#20 – Start an informal charity project
Everyone can do something to better the world no matter how much or how little they think they can contribute. Get together with your long-distance friends, identify various local charities that are close to your hearts, and then work on helping those charities with money and other resources. It will help strengthen your bond with your friends in a meaningful way, not to mention giving you the collective satisfaction of having helped someone less fortunate than you. You can use sites like JustGiving to start a fundraising page and then promote the page online to your respective social circles.
#21 – Stay in Touch
Everyone has crazy schedules, life events, kids, hectic jobs, or any number of things that keep them busy throughout the year. Don’t use that as an excuse to lose touch with the people who are important to you. If needed, schedule a monthly catch-up with your friends – as a group or even on an individual basis. The key is to maintain that contact to show the other person that they mean something to you and that they’re important enough in your life to at least warrant an occasional ‘hey there, how’re things with you.’
A Word to the Wise
Leverage technology as much as possible. This will help you stay on track on your path to reestablishing or strengthening your connections. Do this for long-distance friends and those to whom you have physical access. Set reminders and schedule calls if you have to. It’s important to put in the manual effort required to keep a relationship healthy. It’s easy to get carried away with our lives and leave old friends behind. Don’t make that mistake.
Friends can enrich your existence and make it more fulfilling. Rather than put them in the ‘I’ll get to it when I can’ outer circle of your daily life, include them in your core activities. That’s the easiest way to keep friends once you’ve made them. None of us get to choose our family members but all of us get to choose our friends. Now that you’ve chosen, it’s your responsibility to nurture that relationship with every resource at your disposal.