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The idea that long distance relationships are hard is certainly not a new one. But, the ability to maintain long distance friendships is also a challenge. Friendships, in comparison to romantic relationships, have very different maintenance demands, they can also vary in the degree of closeness, and you can have more than one at once without damage.

However, keeping close friendships intact over long distances does require some effort. I am not fantastic at keeping in touch. But, I will have to say that maybe I’m a little bit better at it than I give myself credit for. My closest friends in the world live anywhere from 1-12 hours away, driving time. Some even further. Yet, I still consider these girls to be my closest among close friends.

Let’s talk about how that’s possible. First, we were all in close proximity at one point during our lives – when we became friends. We forged special bonds that no amount of time or space could prove too difficult to overcome. And then there is technology. Facebook, twitter, instagram, email, text messaging, instant messaging. All of these things play a crucial role in our ability to keep in touch. Real time access to conversation. Shit is hitting the fan RIGHT NOW – we’ll know about it, immediately. It’s not quite the same as walking into the next room and getting a hug, or being handed a glass of wine, but it’s dang close.

In fact, my testament to the role of technology in relationship building goes well beyond just my best friends. If it weren’t for things like AIM (back in the day), facebook, and text messaging, I am certain that I would not have as close of a relationship with my little sister as I do. With 11 years between us, I was leaving for college when she was seven. We’ve barely lived in the same city for more than a few months since then, and not at all in the past 8 years. So she grew up with an absentee sister, yet our sisterly bond is ever so present.

I won’t lie, face to face is still best. But, when that is just not possible, strong, meaningful friendships can be forged all the same with the help of today’s technology. Maybe this is why when friends have moved away, one by one, I’ve not gotten all that sad. Yes, it’s a change and the dynamics are bound to be different, but I’m just going to get all the details of your move via email tomorrow anyway! And so it goes…

There are people that argue that these social technologies keep us separated and less interactive, less involved. We sit behind computers instead of going out and experiencing. And maybe that’s true. Maybe we do spend too much time at home communicating electronically, with a certain level of anonymity. But, this technology has not only kept me close to far away friends, it’s allowing me to communicate with some of you – people who are in other parts of the country and world. Would we have ever “heard” one another’s voice without it?

What are your thoughts on the role of technology on maintaining and building friendships?

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