Tips for Long Distance Friendships

So every summer there comes a time when a whole bunch of new kiddies come to Wesleyan and a whole bunch of older kiddies leave. Summer, then, is a transitional time for a lot of people and it often calls for the geographic displacement of close friends to be sucked up by schools in other time zones or *gasp* tiny, tiny cubicles in big, big buildings in cities far away.

And with the advent of Facebook, many of these kids say to themselves, “Hey, we’ll be in touch, there’s always Facebook!” Yeah huh.

Facebook sucks for bonding. I’ve railed against it before as a really poor substitute for social engagement, but I can’t emphasize this enough: DO NOT RELY ON FACEBOOK TO KEEP IN TOUCH. Facebook is only good for one of three things: 1) looking up someone mentioned in conversation who you do not know, 2) graffiti and 3) leaving totally non-committal “let’s hang!” notes on people’s walls.

Right. So with that said, Facebook is lame. Except for graffiti. Graffiti will revolutionize the entire internet. Just like The Two Coreys will revolutionize television. You’ll see.

Ok, back to my point. So what do you do when friends move away?

I’m not the best phone chatter. In fact, when I look at my monthly cell phone statement, on my family plan of my brother, my grandmother and I, both my brother and my grandmother outtalk me. Which is both revealing of my character and lends credence to my theory that gram is actually a neo-soviet spy using my unused minutes to contact the mother country.

But I do manage to keep in touch with a lot of friends scattered now all over the country via snail mail. And I can’t recommend this enough. Email gets curt and trite after a while. “Hey, sorry I haven’t written in a while, I’ve been busy! Studying lots! Are you busy? Studying? Yeah, I hear you. Anyway, I gotta go. Test tomorrow.” And then they gradually become less and less frequent and three years later you ask yourself, “Hey, didn’t I used to be friends with that girl?”

Right, so tip #2, (after not relying on facebook) is not to rely on email. Email is fine for aunts you see once every three years, but I can’t remember the last time I got really excited to get a long email.

So tip #3, my best tip, is to invest in snail mail. At school (or alone in your apartment after taking a new job) receiving letters, postcards and tiny packages can make all the difference between a really crappy day and a pretty good one. Things to consider picking up the next time you’re out:

  • An address book. Seriously, I think I may be one of the only people I know who still keeps one of these, but I make it a point to jot down things like birthdays, school addresses, phone numbers, etc.
  • Stamps. Both regular (or those crazy *forever* stamps) and postcard. Stock up. I always regret when I’m pennywise and pound poor about buying stamps because then I’ll write a letter out only to realize I have no postage. It’s quite possibly one of the most annoying things in the world, ranked closely in my heart next to those ladies at the grocery store who park their carts in front of the yogurt, blocking you from getting said yogurt. Seriously. So annoying.
  • Stationery. Blank cards, envelopes, nice letter paper, good pens. The works. I keep a box of this crap filled and make a point to stock up whenever I see a sale or find cheap Thank You cards at the dollar store…which…brings me to my next point:
  • Thank You Cards. As a human being living and breathing on Earth, I can’t tell you how many thank-you cards I’ve sent out since being at college. Letters of recommendation writers, gift givers, friends who do you considerate favors, the like. They’re incredibly important and go a long way to show gratitude and appreciation but I feel like no one sends them anymore–which makes them even more important! These you should *always* have on hand. Always. It might as well be the law.
  • Assorted Clippings. Ok, this is more a quirk I have than anything, but I often clip out things like recipes I find in magazines or print out comics I like and put them in my stationery box to include in my next letter to a friend. It’s not much, but sometimes I end up sending an entire letter just composed of clippings and a mix cd. Xue tried this once when I worked as a camp counselor; she sent me an envelope full of wheat wrapped in a drawing of an octopus. It’s the thought that counts.