With the start and end of each chapter in our lifetime, we find opportunities to see new places, meet new people, learn new things, and make new memories. Oftentimes, however, in order to make room for these new experiences, we have to bid our farewells to the old ones--that is, except for the friends we make along the way. Sure, it would be much nicer to stay close in proximity to our loved ones for our whole lives, but moving away does not mean you have to say goodbye forever, as long as you put forth some effort.
I personally possess quite a bit of experience in this area. Aside from the normal instances of moving away, whether on my part or that of my friends', I have relatives and friends who live in Egypt, whom I see every couple of years or so during the summer. However, that amount of time in between is very long to go without contacting your loved ones, and although I've been guilty of falling out of touch with those I care about, I can easily say that I've learned some efficient methods for achieving regular contact with them over the years.
1. Give & Take
This is the very basis of just about every relationship you will be involved in throughout your life.
Relationships, no matter what type they are, are about giving and receiving. Now, what is given and what is received will depend on you and your friends' personalities, and the dynamic of your friendship. However, one thing's for certain: in order to have a healthy relationship, it is imperative that the both of you give just as much or nearly as much as you receive. In other words, maintain a balance. If your friend is there to comfort you whenever you are upset, ensure that you are by their side during their own rough times. If you are always patiently listening to your friend's rambling about their favorite TV show, then they should also lend an ear when you need to rant about the death of your favorite book character. *And on a more serious note, if one of you accepts the other for who they are and is understanding and forgiving of the other's flaws, then the other party should extend the same sentiments.
This is just as, if not slightly more, important in a long distance friendship. Since the vast majority of your correspondance will be through technological means in that case, it is important that you remain consistent in your efforts to maintain this balance. Typically, a lack of effort is what causes such relationships to fall apart. Each party should show the other they care--and this does not necessarily mean saying it aloud. It could mean responding to your friend's texts in as timely of a manner as you are able, being the one to initiate contact after your friend has done so, or remembering important events and dates, such as each other's birthdays. Figure out what you need from each other in the context of these new circumstances that you are in, and act accordingly.
*However it may be important to be willing to forgive and accept certain flaws and actions on the part of your friend, it is also even more important that each of you retain your boundaries and know where to draw the line. Not doing so, or having a friend who does not respect such boundaries and does as they please whilst still expecting you to be forgiving, is indicative of a toxic relationship.
2. Use Social Media
We all know that social media is a double-edged sword. It has numerous positives and just as many negatives. However, the type of impact that social media has upon you and your life always depends on what you use it for and how.
It can do wonders for long distance friendships. In fact, social media is how many long distance friendships come to be in the first place. It is an easy method to keep up to date on what your long distance friend is up to and to engage in interactions with them. Obviously, though, simply following your friend on Instagram and liking their posts does not equate to actually staying in contact. You need to properly interact and converse with them similar to how you would in real life.
If their Instagram story provokes some sort of response in you, tell them so. I do this with a good amount of my friends and acquaintances. If they post a song that I love, then I send them a story reply saying so and start a conversation about music. When they share a meme that I found funny, then I comment on that. If I find a post that is amusing to me, I send them to the people who I know have a similar sense of humor. This, like the previous step, involves showing them that you truly care about them and the things that they have to say, which is going to be a common theme for many of the items on this list.
3. Connect Over Common Interests
Every friendship involves at least some common ground between both parties--otherwise, it would have been near impossible to become friends in the first place. Use it to your advantage. I already gave some examples of this in the previous step, such as music and humor, but you can step it up a notch by making it a regular, scheduled thing. For instance, you and your friend(s) could start a virtual book club, in which you read the same book at the same time and discuss it afterwards. This could be done via a group chat or Facebook group. Another productive option might be to study and do homework together through a video call. If you study the same things, this might prove to be helpful as you can assist each other with difficult assignments. Even if you don't, though, simply being in their company might make studying more enjoyable--though it might not be so beneficial if you and your friend are the type to get off track easily. If the two of you are writers, you might try co-writing something together on a shared document or a story-sharing website such as Wattpad, whether its fanfiction or a completely original piece.
Another idea might be to schedule a movie night every month or so. Though I haven't tried any of them, there are apps and Chrome extensions such as Netflix Party that synchronize video playback allow you and your friends to watch the same movie/TV show remotely, with group chat/video call options for reactions and commentary. The possibilities are endless.
4. Send Letters/Postcards
Though this option may not be for everyone, it is nice to step away from our phones and use more antiquated methods as a change from the fast, instant nature of our technologically influenced lives. Buy some pretty stationery and take a dive into the communication methods of the past, by sending letters periodically. You could include little tokens, gifts, souvenirs or polaroids for your friend to keep. For their birthday, instead of sending birthday wishes by text you might also consider sending them a birthday card and packaged gift through snail mail.
5. Keep Each Other Updated
Whether you do it by letter, phone, or social media, let your friend know what is going on in your life, whether big or small, and encourage them to do the same. Send pictures of your current work in progress. Let each other know about your goals and accomplishments, and encourage each other. Ask for advice in areas and situations that might not be your expertise. For example, I've recently been on the hunt for a good DSLR camera for a beginner, and one aspect of my research was to take the time to check in with a few people I know who are knowledgeable with cameras and ask for their insight.
You don't have to do this by directly telling your friend, either. If the two of you are up for it, one option might be to create a shared Google doc or even a private blog where you and your friend(s) could post journal entries with life updates. Not only does this spice things up a little, it also creates a wonderful time capsule of memories for the both of you to look back on in the future.
6. Make Plans
This is easier said than done, especially if you live in entirely different countries. In some circumstances, it might be near, if not, completely impossible. However, face-to-face interaction is always much more preferable than other types, so if you do have the means to meet up or visit each other in real life, then make the most out of it. Not everyone has the ability to see their loved ones in front of them and feel their touch.
It's always difficult being away from the people you care about. But in this world full of resources that we live in, you can definitely make up for it as long as you are willing to have the right mindset and put forth the effort.