Relationships long-distance in time

Published on 2024-01-06

Long distance relationships aren't the easiest thing for me. I find it a lot easier to keep up with people when I'm physically there in their life, spending time with them on a regular basis. Though, most of the relationships I've developed over the course of the last decades of my life are now either gone or long-distance; that's just the nature of leaving home.

After a while, I stopped seeing these relationships as being long-distance in space. Really, they're long-distance in time.

I don't find that any of my long-distance relationships have changed, really. We still spend about as much time talking to one another over the internet. The difference is that while in the past we might have seen each other every other day, now we hopefully see each other once a year.

Quality time becomes a lot more meaningful, just by virtue of being more scarce. You learn to value every moment you get. Goodbyes become a lot more poignant, because you never know when you'll see one another again--if ever.

But even if you don't, that doesn't necessarily spell the end. Your friends are still there, wherever it is they are. But when you leave, the nature of your relationship changes. You stop being IRL friends, in a sense, and start being online friends. There's a very different vocabulary we use to go about being friends with people you only see through the internet.

This difference--that of being friends with someone in the real world versus online--feels significant. It's still the same people, and it's still the same relationships, but it also kind of isn't, right? The person I am offline isn't the same as the one I am online. Offline relationships are characterized by a different, more physical kind of intimacy. Texting someone "hugs" isn't the same as physically taking them into your arms. Not necessarily worse, but different.

Those offline relationships become separated in time, with this new, online relationship growing to fill in the gaps.

It becomes a little easier, then, to say goodbye to your friends in person, knowing that in half an hour you'll send them an IM complaining about how uncomfortable the airplane is, or how expensive the airport food is, or how you made it safely onto the bus, or how you're back in the arms of your new friends on the other side of the world. It's not really "goodbye," in the whole sense, and what is lost—you must have faith—will eventually come back.

I value my online relationships with my old friends immensely, but I miss being there with them too.

Respond to this article

If you have thoughts you'd like to share, send me an email!

See here for ways to reach out