During my college years — a period of my life which ended only a month ago — I lived within a mile of most of my closest friends. Some of them were as easy to reach as a 30-second walk. I could text any of them and say, "Hey, do you want to watch the newest Game of Thrones episode tonight?" or "I can't get anything done on my own — wanna make tea and study together?" Now that I've graduated, however, hanging out with most of these people would require much more than a single text, and figuring out how to keep up a long-distance friendship has proven to be more difficult than I imagined.
If you've also graduated recently, or you've gotten a new job that's necessitated a move to a new city, you know the feeling. Coffee dates, cooking dinner together, and going out on the weekends aren't possible any longer. Friendships you treasure suddenly seem much harder to keep up. When it comes to long-distance relationships, you probably know that the romantic kind requires constant upkeep to maintain: calling, Skyping, letter-writing, and the like. But long-distance friendships aren't that different. In order to keep the friends who really matter to you, there are plenty of small gestures you can make to keep inviting that person into your new life — no matter how many miles away you've set up home.
1. Send snapshots of your day
Now that we have Snapchat, this is easier to do than ever before. If you're visiting a museum, venturing out to a new restaurant, or just sitting at home watching Netflix, it takes 10 seconds (quite literally) to pull out your phone and capture the moment. Even if you and your friend don't have Snapchat, you can send images to each other through text. This will make your friend feel like she's part of your daily life, and it hardly takes any time.
2. Pick a show to watch together
Sometimes, long-distance friendships don't provide the best conversational opportunities. How can you ask your friend about the specifics of her life when you're not familiar with her new city or job? TV shows (or books, or video games, or what have you) provide a great starting point so that you don't fall into the "How are you," "good," "how are you" rut. Have you been planning to watch Jessica Jones, but just never got around to it? Make your Netflix watching into a bonding activity by asking your friend to watch it with you. As you progress through each episode, you can discuss your favorite actors and your thoughts on the most surprising plot developments.
If you really want to go the extra mile, you can even Skype and set up screensharing so that you're literally watching an episode at the same time as your friend. That's a guaranteed way to make the distance feel like nothing!
3. Write letters
I know, I know. In the digital age, why write a letter when a Facebook message or text is so much faster? But you don't have to write your friend a novel. Short letters and postcards are a tangible memento of your friendship that she can keep on her mantel or by her bedside. The stationery doesn't have to be fancy. Envelopes are cheap. You can buy stamps pretty much anywhere. Scribble down a funny story that happened to you and put it in the mailbox. She'll appreciate it when she gets your note next week!
4. Send her links to articles you're reading
Are you a Washington Post person, or more of a New York Times girl? Either way, send links to the most intriguing articles you find during the day. Not only does this encourage you to keep up with current events, but you can message back and forth about your takeaway once both of you have read up on the subject.
Oh, and if you're more into roundups of cute puppy pictures, there is nothing wrong with that. Dream about the kind of dog you'll adopt when you're living near her again. Or send her the "Western Art History" series by Mallory Ortberg from The Toast. Always a fascinating read, those.
5. Play games together
I'm not gonna lie, I'm still heartbroken about Trivia Crack going out of style. I used to try to one-up my mom and sister at who knew more weird bits of knowledge. Same thing with Words with Friends. But just because those two apps aren't as popular nowadays, there's always a fresh crop of fun, trendy games you can play together — even if you're not in the same time zone. Check out the app store to choose a game you both like.
You can also play text-based/MMO games together, like Fallen London or The Secret World. The former allows interactions between users as you delve into a steampunky London world. Maybe you and your friend's alter egos will become Victorian crime lords, or the toast of the town — who knows? The latter lets you become members of secret societies and take over the world.
6. Call each other
Pick up your phone! Even if you only get the chance to chat for five minutes, hearing your friend's voice will help bring her closer to you. It's cheap and easy, and you do have the time — promise!