When you decide to go away to college, there’s a lot of people that you leave behind in the process. Friends you’ve known since grade school, family, significant others both new and old. In new surroundings, people often change. When you return in the winter and summer, you might not really know anyone, nor will they know you. Distance can easily cause old friends to grow apart.
Though this is still true in our increasingly inter-connected age, the bare-bones fact is that connection has become infinitely faster and easier. As long as you have your high school friends on social media, you can witness at least part of the transformation they undergo while the two of you are separated. It makes the shock upon reuniting easier, more palatable. Though this person is still different than the one you knew when you left, you had been gradually introduced to the changes within them and they to yours. With all three of my closest friends being countless miles away for the majority of the year, it’s been completely true for me that watching them change and connecting with them through social media has allowed us to stay close. In the interest of seeing if this was true for others, too, I conducted interviews with students at my University. To each student, I asked numerous questions, including:
- Who their friend is, and to describe them
- How long they’ve known each other
- Where and how they met
- The impact distance has had on their relationship
- Which methods they use to stay in touch
- What they might say to that person if they were reading this
To these questions, I received the following responses:
“My best friend Nam lives in D.C. He likes to program, he’s a huge nerd, and he’s always got my back. I’ve known him for about six or seven years, we met in the eighth grade. We were stuck in a class of twenty-eight kids in which there were only four guys, so we had a limited selection in the friend department. We ended up having a whole group in high school, and we all would play online games together during the weekends. These days we stay in touch mainly through texting, but we also Snapchat, Facebook messenger, Skype… we’ve even considered carrier pigeons. I’ve googled it. They cost about $400. I wouldn’t say the distance has had a huge impact on our relationship, I do miss my Namy though.”
What would you say if he was reading this?: “Hi, Nam.”
“My furthest friend is Robert in Massachusetts. We’ve known each other since the eighth grade, we were in the same class, and he just kind of asked me out and I said yes. We broke up a pretty long time before I left for college. He was my first and only boyfriend, and he’s still my best friend. We stay in touch pretty much through Facetime, texting, and Snapchat. The worst thing about being apart from him is, and this is going to sound super depressing, but I don’t really have a lot of friends at college right now. Since we’re so far apart, we don’t really get to talk as much, and he’s one of the only people who gets me. He understands all of my irrational emotions and thoughts, and it’s really painful for me that I can’t reach out to him when I need him here as easily.”
What would you say if he was reading this?: “I don’t know. He is an all-knowing being.”
“Pat. He was in Charleston, but now he’s in Florida. We met in our freshman year of high school, I was discussing cookies and then he grabbed me violently to also discuss cookies. We dated for a long time and then broke up during my first semester of college. I would say the distance definitely strained our relationship, but breaking up was not because of it. We just became different people in our respective surroundings. We don’t talk as much these days, but when we do, it’s through phone calls that I end up missing a lot of the time. I would describe him as selfish, inconsiderate, slightly odd, very lost, but ultimately funny and tolerable. Some days.”
What would you say if he was reading this?: “I’m sorry for the honesty.”
“Her name is Clarissa, and she lives in Texas. We met in middle school, but we mostly saw each other while we were going to church each week. I’d describe her as a boss, because she’s actually restaurant manager now. I honestly don’t think distance has changed anything about our relationship, we’re always talking through Snapchat, Facetime, texting, Twitter, Instagram, like literally everything there is, we talk on it. She’s the kind of friend where we can stop talking for a few days and then just pick back up right where we left off. “Losing touch” with her is not actually losing touch. She also uses my Spotify and Netflix accounts, so I’m constantly exposed to her latest music and film escapades.”
What would you say if she was reading this?: “See you in ten days! Can’t wait to get turnt.”
“My friend Nadia moved to Australia recently. We were already separated pretty often before that, but now it’s an even greater distance. We met in kind of a weird way, she had moved schools and met someone who was a really good friend of mine. He had told me a lot about her and showed me a bunch of her poetry, so one day we just all went to this Italian restaurant in my hometown to properly meet. These days we stay in touch primarily through texting and Facebook messaging, but we don’t really talk that much anymore. The distance has definitely strained our friendship; it can be really hard to stay in touch. Knowing that, I just ask anybody with a long-distance friend out there to just trust that they’re going to be there when you need them. Likewise, make sure that you’re there when they need you.”
What would you say if she was reading this?: “Thank you for everything that you’ve done for me. I miss you a lot, and I’m really glad that you’re in my life. I wish things were the same.”
Doing this suggested to me that today, people are staying in touch with their friends from home more than ever, but that there are still exceptions. While many of the people I spoke with referenced different methods of social media as helping them stay in touch, sometimes it creates a veil between you and that person. Sometimes, you’re just able to watch them change, react to yourself, and watch the distance between you grow. Reaching out to that person can become more difficult each day. If there’s someone out there you want to keep in your life, try to shoot them a message at least once a week. I know that I will.
Do you have any far away friends? What about someone that you didn’t meet and then leave, but who has been separate from you throughout your whole friendship? When was the last time you contacted that person?