A shoutout to my long-distance friends

technology

I live in Atlanta, and here I have friends that I can touch and feel.

But I live in Atlanta, and you live on the other side of the country; I see you a few times every year.

As a senior in high school, I’m going to see some of my best friends once more before we’re all whisked off to college, and I don’t know what to do about it.

With my friends here, personal interaction is best. If you’ve got the ability to see people that you care about, why would you leave it up to technology to do the job? It’s lame, it’s lazy, and it’s a poor example of friendship.

But with the friends dispersed all over the country, technology is all I have. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail, as well as texting and Snapchat are wonderful technological developments that have connected us all in unprecedented ways, giving the saying “it’s a small world” a whole new meaning.

While it still makes me furious when people walk around with their eyes glued to their screens, when people refused to look up as they walk through the halls, and when they use their phones and computers as excuses, as crutches for not socializing or avoiding personal interactions, it’s important to recognize the fine line that we tread when we make these claims.

It’s true that misusing these gadgets does force our eyes to glaze over, but when it comes to long-distance friendships, people fundamentally mischaracterize them, and the way young people use them.

You might see an idiot looking at a machine, but are you looking? It’s me, talking to my best friend on the other side of the screen; I see her once a year and we are a thousand miles apart.

While technology may have contributed to the way that some people have detached themselves from the world, it is but one example out of many. Technology…is not the only distraction; it is not to blame for the disconnections that we feel.

We can use it productively, because I cannot take for granted the friends that live thousands of miles away from me. I cannot physically touch them, I don’t know what their houses look like, and we can’t always meet up for coffee when we’d like.

Technology may be all we have, but sometimes, it’s better. Phones and computers can be more than machines; they can become our arms and legs and eyes and ears…internet friends are real friends.

We have to rely on voluntarily engaging these people, because we can’t expect to see them in our history class the next day. I have to reach out to you, and you have to reach out to me and I’ll have to ask about your day, and you’ll have to reciprocate; we are walking along a two-way street.

Ask, and they must be willing to tell about what’s new in their life; dissatisfaction ensues when we find out about new developments through social media, not themselves.

The generation of the 21st century deals well, although plenty of exceptions exist. We frequently grow lazy or self-conscious, refusing to initiate conversations, hoping that the other person will…lo and behold, a divide emerges.

Days become weeks and before you know it, someone you once called your friend has fallen down to acquaintance status.

Phones and computers have evolved to allow lengthy phone and video calls, so that maybe, just maybe it’s not thousands of miles between us, but a mere few inches.

Less direct forms of communication (texting, Snapchatting) might suffice when life gets busy, but letting them dominate the relationship can lead quickly to a drifting apart.

It will reveal an obvious disengagement; in the rare personal encounter, the conversation will be awkward and lacking. You aren’t familiar with their verbal cues, and you can’t respond immediately to what they say, as you’ve always had a few seconds to collect your thoughts.

We can’t go farther than this, you think to yourself. What if you can only be friends with someone online? What good is a friendship if you two only feel comfortable with a computer screen acting as a divide?

However, be wary; quantity rarely trumps quality. When a conversation feels like punching a time card, when it feels like going down a checklist, when you initiate just for initiation’s sake, you sacrifice the integrity of the friendship.

We don’t always need to be in constant contact with each other…in fact, it seems to me that the best friendships are confident in their durability; silence shouldn’t be a barrier, and it shouldn’t be affronting.

We’re in high school; some of us are graduating this year. What I’ve learned from these long distance relationships will come in handy when we’re all scattered across the world, hurling ourselves into our own destinies, going wherever life takes us.

I’m more prepared than most, and I won’t let geographical divides come between us.

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