Now that we’re inside, almost all of the time, we have to put in a little extra effort to maintain our friendships. The most obvious change is that we’ve had to relocate our social lives from the pub to the internet, but we’ve also had to grapple with the loneliness of being isolated and the cruelty of not being able to see, touch or smell some of the people we cherish the most. It can be frightening to be more alone than we’re used to, especially if you’re an extrovert. So here are a few suggestions for a bit of social upkeep for your friendships during this eerie, lonesome time.
Exchange voice notes with people you love
Sending voice notes to your friends is like creating personalised podcast episodes for them. It’s the perfect communication mode for millennials in particular, because we’re notoriously horrified by phone calls but still quite calmed by the sound of a familiar voice. Use WhatsApp or Facebook (there’s a little microphone icon you can click on) to record either a short, snappy reminder of what you sound like or a long, rambling monologue that’ll help someone you love fill an hour, by the time they’ve listened and responded. It’s like sending postcards or letters, but with your mouth. It’s an absolute delight, trust me – I’ve been managing some long distance friendships this way for ages and I swear by it.
Go for drinks… on Zoom
Since we’re not allowed to go to a restaurant or a pub or a mate’s house, but we still like the taste of wine and perhaps need its comforting embrace right now, it’s an excellent compromise to pour yourself something lovely, download Zoom and video chat with your friends. You can interrupt each other, tell stories and delight yourselves by saying “cheers” over and over as you clink your glass up against your computer screen. You can do it in small numbers or add as many people as you can think of, to make the whole thing feel rowdy like a party. The Houseparty app is also good fun for this sort of setup.
Actually pick up the phone
I call my parents every single morning. It’s a ritual I got into when I lived 12,500km away from them and it’s just such a reliably reassuring way to start the day. Might I suggest you get into the habit of regularly pestering your friends by telephone? The phone call has a bad rep these days, but if you schedule it in and get someone’s permission to dial their number at a certain time, it can be an absolute salve.
Be vulnerable and candid
You don’t have to get deep and meaningful for every interaction you have, but it’s a good idea to be vulnerable and candid with the people you love about how you’re feeling at the moment. Anxiety shared is often at least anxiety understood, which truly helps. Make a conscious effort to ask your friends how they really are, to get past the small talk and find out what they’re feeling, and to really actively listen when they tell you. Practice decent conversation etiquette by making sure everyone gets an equal go to speak about themselves and make sure your friends know that your conversations are a safe space for them to be open and honest. Little texts to let them know you’re thinking of them, frequent check-ins on their mental health and even a stupid cat video you found online all help to make someone feel seen and accounted for in this strange time.
Go well, stay home, be safe and cosy.
Kate Leaver is an author, journalist and speaker. She is the author of The Friendship Cure, a manifesto for friendship in the modern world, which brings to light what modern friendship means, how it can survive, why we need it and what we can do to get the most from it.