The only reason I still have friends in other cities is because my friends either have Stockholm Syndrome or short term memory loss. The first option would explain how they forgive every instance that I don’t text them back for 15 days when all they asked of me was, “Hi!”
The second option would explain how they seem to forget that I’ve complained, many times, that it hurts my fingers to type on cell screens and that “catching up!” on the phone gives me a very unique brand of anxiety regardless of who is on the line, not unlike answering the door bell after ordering food.
But when your friends are scattered across the country — or in another country — “my fingers hurt” isn’t a valid excuse. Neither is, “I’m paranoid and hate speaking out loud over airwaves.”
As such, I have decided that my fall 2016 goal is to be better about staying in touch. But in order to be better, you also have to be smart, which means that I have ruled out the following conventional options:
Sedentary phone calls
WhatsApp (which is just alternative texting)
Here is what I plan to do instead:
FaceTime as a Verb
Apparently, everyone hates FaceTime. I love FaceTime. It increases the level of connectedness that helps keep friendships from fading into both parties’ respective differences and makes it feel like you’re hanging out. It also requires that you pay attention to one another rather than repeat “Uh-huh” while on speaker as you scroll through Instagram. Reserve that for conference calls.
I also like FaceTime because it makes for a shorter conversation. You’re staring at one another and sort of never know when you’re roommate’s gonna come barging in, so you get to the point faster. Everyone’s busy which is why we avoid catching up: there’s too much to tell our closest people who live far away. But a FaceTime acts as a squeeze around a lazy pony’s belly. “Giddy up, we have a friendship to win.”
A friend of mine sends postcards and I find them THRILLING. She gets them from random corner stores or on her various travels for work. She has my address memorized because she’s a stalker, so that’s something to consider (that you need to collect your friends addresses — which requires a text). And she doesn’t write a long note, but I don’t need one. It’s a pin she drops in my mail that lets me track her newest whereabouts. I’m a stalker, too? But now I plan to collect postcards as I go, even I go nowhere, and send them back.
The Real Life Instagram Tag
The way I keep track of whether a friend is still mad at me or not is by noting the last time she tagged me in a post. This Tuesday, even though I forgot to text her back Saturday? Great. We are good and golden. But an at-mention under a meme is not enough. (Especially if your friends or family don’t use Instagram.)
My cousin who lives in Portland sends our grandma in Philadelphia photos multiple times a week with, as my dad would say, “the hit of a button!” She uses an app called FreePrints that connects to your photos (on Facebook, Instagram, your phone, Dropbox and whatever else the kids use). FreePrints kind of lies in that it’s not completely free — what is, though? Am I right, Pandora advertisement interruptions? — but it’s largely free. You can order up to 85 free individual 4×6 photo prints per calendar month (I copied and pasted that from their FAQ page) and then you just pay for shipping, which is always under $10.00.
Anyway, so you select the photos you want to share, click a button, choose the address (which requires a pesky but fast text, like the postcard, and but then it stores it so you never have to ask again) and hit send. A few days later your friend gets a whole bunch of photos of your face that she never knew she wanted but come on, what is friendship if not a series of double chins?
And then she can send you photos of her cat. See? Win, win,
Feature collage by Lily Ross.