Long Distance Friendships | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
August 2018

Long Distance Friendships

By Kelly Peterson-Cruse

As I sit down to write this blog, my phone buzzes and I have a Facebook message. I open the message, and there are 3 men, now in their early 30’s, in a video clip celebrating at one of the young men’s wedding in Spain. One is from Portland, one is from England, and one is from California, and they met over 15 years ago as staff at one of the summer camps where I was a director. There is a whole group that were staff together that call themselves the “Legends” who are in contact with each other, travel to many parts of the world to attend each other’s weddings, and intentionally put in the time and effort to maintain their friendship and stay in each other’s lives. I have similar groups on other social media platforms from previous youth groups, and camp staffs which include folks from all over the world keeping connections and celebrating the journeys of their lives.

According to The Huffington Post “The post-graduate job search has become international in scope. According to the largest, most comprehensive study analyzing our attitudes and behaviors, the millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 1995, seek more workplace flexibility and opportunity for overseas assignments as keys to greater job satisfaction. It’s unsurprising then, that the number of Americans living overseas has never been higher. In short, we value the flexible ability to regularly pick up and traverse the world in pursuit of our careers. But our well-honed transience and desire for global opportunities have not eliminated our all-too-human desire for permanent, meaningful relationships.”

However, I do believe, and research shows that the key to successful long-distance friendship, is more than the “shiny you” we all post on social media. It goes beyond the “selfie” and scrolling through seeing how much better their life is than yours. You need to invest in the relationship. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Form separate, private groups. I actually have written about having a ministry and a private account on social media. I have separate groups within those accounts. Choose to include people on a large scale (all the people in a youth group and staff) and on a small scale (the people you co-counseled with in a cabin group). It allows you to have both general (all those common great camp or youth group memories- weddings, babies …) and more personal conversations (what’s really going on in your life).
  • Create group texts (there’s an app for that). Spur of the moment conversations, funny photos that the group would relate to are a more spontaneous “real” exchange and allow connections to continue and the group feels present. It allows you to also send messages to individuals. Research says that it is a level above social media which most feel is very public.
  • HAVE REAL CONVERSATIONS!!! WHAAT?! The success of long distance friendship goes beyond a screen. Reach out to those you want a deeper connection with, and talk, catch up, really find out what’s going on. Make a point to plan to talk when you can be fully present and engaged. A Blog on Bustle also brings up the point that millennials, because of their life being so out there on social media, talk about everything with their friends. Take the knowledge you have from your other connections, and further the conversation.
  • Use the distance to your advantage. My young adult children have friends all over the country, all over the world. This is due to their traveling and working abroad, their friends traveling and working abroad, working with camp staff from all over the world, going to school with students from all over, and friends that have ventured away from home to work and follow their dreams. It is important to make time for in person connection and development of the relationship. Our “tribe” of camp friends has gathered in many parts of the country and the world to connect. When we go to a wedding, we make sure to add on days so we can be with each other and have memorable connections which inevitably strengthen the friendship. Another group of friends I know have a standing weekend where they meet, connect, catch-up and build on their memories and friendship. I know others that make a point to fly through cities where they have long distance friends, and time it so they can have a leisurely dinner or even an extra day together.

Long distance relationships are possible, and can be some of the closest relationships you have. It is amazing to have those friends that no matter how much time passes, the time and effort that you’ve put into the relationship through virtual and real communication, makes it feel that no time has passed at all.


Huff Post: The Blog-“Why More Millennials Are in Long Distance Relationships” By Rachel Ryan

Bustle: “How Millennials Approach Relationships Different than Older Generations” By Sarah Fielding