What does it look like when people stay in touch casually all the time?
September 6, 2016 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by recent [1] questions [2] about how people live in the day-to-day, I've got one: if you stay in regular touch (2+ times per week) with a friend or family member that you don't see that often, how do you go about it?

What mediums do you use (phone, text, snapchat, etc.)?
What sorts of communiques do you send? (Give examples of content, please!)
What is the response time of the other party, and what's yours in return?
How many times does it go back and forth before it falls off?
Who starts the next one?
posted by xo to Human Relations (29 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am in constant contact with some very good friends based in England; I'm in Hong Kong.

- We use KakaoTalk/WhatsApp voice notes (Kakao is better since it has Moomin stickers and you don't need to hold down the button as you speak! There's a five-minute limit that is a nice chunk of time to get some thoughts in some depth into and while you can record another, sometimes getting it all in just the one is good for self-editing). You can also save particularly good notes, though I may just listen one more time before continuing. Speech is also far faster than typing and safer if you're in the car.

- We talk about what we've done that day, but also shared interests - we all love aviation and UK/US politics and talk about those a lot; it really feels like a very slow-speed podcast. We all also (used to) work in the same field so there's a shared language around office stuff. No topic's really off limits but as they are a couple, I never pry into and they never bring up lovey-dovey personal romance stuff.

- Response time varies but we never go more than an day, really, without at least a photo, even if we're wifi only while abroad. We'll sometimes send chains of messages or even the odd video note.

- It never falls off; we're going on three years like this - we keep having to delete the chat to save phone memory. We see each other maybe once/twice a year, but we saw each other more when they were based in Korea. It's assumed that if they're in Asia or I'm in Europe, we'll all obviously meet up.

They've essentially become my best friends this way; there's no way even seeing someone every day would feature both the intimacy of one-on-one speech with links and articles and all the rest.
posted by mdonley at 8:35 AM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


With me and my siblings, it's a combination of messaging, phone and email, with messaging most common. Response times vary from instant to no response at all. Content can be anything from family business to planned visits-- we start talking about a visit 6 months or so before it happens-- to some news item or trivia or "thinking of you" type stuff. We just had a thread with over a dozen messages.

One thing that probably makes it easier to sustain in our case is that there are more than two of us. If one of us is silent the other still has someone responding. With individual friends I have, it's never as frequent as it is with my siblings. But I think more of an effort is made to respond in those cases rather than just letting it drop if it's been more than a couple of days. I almost never *don't* respond to someone who is not family. Although, come to think of it, a lot of my messaging type relationships seem to be with more than one person.
posted by BibiRose at 8:44 AM on September 6, 2016


I'm in almost daily contact with one faraway cousin, two faraway siblings, and one very good long-distance friend.

-I use text messages for most of these people, but the cousin and I also just hang out on gchat all day while we work (we both work from home).
-Messages might just be a random thing we saw online, a cute cat or child pic, or something ridiculous that happened. Generally speaking if something major happens we will move to phone or in-person, but even so we have occasionally discussed major life events in a text chain or gchat.
-Response times just depend on how busy people are, but usually it will be immediate response, real-time convo for some minutes, then long breaks, then another convo.
-It feels like the text msgs fall off when the convo is basically done. Gchats fall off and come back on and fall off all day, depending on who has meetings or who is busy.
-Anyone starts it back up whenever.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:47 AM on September 6, 2016


I am in constant contact with my mother like this. For us it's a combination of WhatsApp (which we use constantly), phone calls (using an international calling card), WhatsApp calls, Skype and FaceTime. The main thing is keeping the WhatsApp going, then we can figure out even we're both available and talk either audio or video. Also send emails back and forth with links, lately of stuff on Craigslist that I'm thinking of buying etc. Examples of content: news (passed an exam, how the party went), old family photos, links to articles etc. Plans for upcoming trips, recipes. Response time varies, sometimes we each go silent for a while if busy, but we always pick it up again eventually. The trick is to make it low pressure, so you feel you can pick up where you left off. Doesn't really fall of, WhatsApp keeps a record of earlier chat, so we just pick up the thread again.

We also have a separate family WhatsApp group, with my parents, my husband, aunt and uncle and cousin. Used for sharing family news, recipes, travel photos, newspaper clippings. More gaps with this one, but we just use it as needed.
posted by peacheater at 8:50 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have a couple of friends I speak to either every day (really only one of those -- my BFF who lives in Vancouver) or a bunch of times a week.

What mediums do you use (phone, text, snapchat, etc.)?
We use a combination of text, the Telegram app, and email (in that order, usually depending on time of day). Very, very occasionally we use WhatsApp or FB messenger.

What sorts of communiques do you send? (Give examples of content, please!)
Usually just plain text about our jobs or what have you; occasionally stickers or photos (commonly of our cats, but sometimes weird shit like bananas with writing on them or bottles of gin we just bought and so forth).

What is the response time of the other party, and what's yours in return?

Really depends. Not more than a couple of hours, normally; I have one friend who works in a non-office job and is often outside so he might take an hour or two to respond. My friends who have office jobs, usually not more than 15 minutes or so.

How many times does it go back and forth before it falls off?
No set answer for this. It depends what we're talking about, whether it's serious or non-serious, etc. We generally volley back and forth at least half a dozen times, but that's on the low end.

Who starts the next one?
Whoever has something to say first.
posted by holborne at 8:51 AM on September 6, 2016


One example: I gchat with my brother (who lives on the other side of the country) a few times a week, usually while we're both at work. Usually, one of us will send the other a link they think the other would be interested in, or we'll tell the other something interesting that happened. We'll end up talking about whatever's going on at the time - shows we're watching, things we did that weekend, the election. It's gchat, so the responses are in real time if the other person is available. How many times it goes back and forth just depends on how busy we are that day. Can be five minutes, can be on and off for a few hours. Whoever has something interesting to share, or a question for the other, will start the next one. I haven't given it a lot of thought, but I think it's about 50-50 who starts the conversation. It's a nice way for us to stay in touch when we live so far away.

My other friends I'll chat with via FB messenger, gchat, or just iMessage, depending on what they use. The content depends on the friend - one of my most common gchat friends is a former colleague so we'll talk work stuff, or gossip about our former coworkers, or just life stuff. I have another friend who has really similar pop culture tastes as me and also has a dog and is currently unemployed (so lots of free time on her hands) so we'll talk about what she's binge-watching, or what she did with her dog that day, or how her job-search is going. That's over iMessage (I realize that sounds very her-centric but since the first two are shared interests it's not really).

I chat online mostly with friends who are at a distance - I've lived in lots of different places, so I have friends all over. With more local friends, it tends to be more about making plans.

One thing I have noticed is that as we've gotten older, there's less aimless chatting, even though there are now more ways to do it. I think it's because we're busier - more responsibility at work (so less time pretending to work while chatting), families, etc.
posted by lunasol at 8:55 AM on September 6, 2016


I keep in touch with a close college friend via email and visits. I'm in NH, shes in Baltimore, MD. The way the email works -- and has for as long as there's been email (before that, we actually wrote letters on paper and mailed them) -- is that one of us writes, the other responds, the first one responds, etc. We might respond in a day, a week, or a month, there's no fixed time. Theses are long emails catching each other up on things in the interim. Then we also occasionally text short things, like photos from the garden or a quick question. And we visit each other 2-3 times per year, for a few days each time, either at her house, mine, or the beach. We have also taken a trip to Spain together for a week.

I keep in touch with one sister mostly through phone calls, every few weeks or so, but sometimes much more often if something important is going on in our lives or our family. We also text and sometimes group text with another sister and/or cousin. We also see each other for short visits 1-2 times per year, either here, there, or at the beach (hmmm ... a theme!).

I keep in touch with another friend, who lives in Boston, mostly by visiting her every 3-4 months or so for a couple of days, and also by going to her family events (parties, weddings, funerals, showers) a few times most years. We used to email almost daily but she stopped wanting to do that (after coming home from being at the computer most of the day), and I don't really like phone calls, so face to face is our mode now.

These three people are all on Facebook but don't really use it. I do use Facebook to keep in touch with other friends (college friends, friends from the past 30 yrs) regularly, some of whom I also visit, or they visit me, and many of whom also email or text from time to time.
posted by mmw at 9:17 AM on September 6, 2016


We use text, email, Facebook and messanger, phone and skype.
For text it's mostly hi I'm sick or I'm going out of town or did you hear the family news. We go back and forth for about four turns .
Email is more let's plan a vacation together or let's send gift / flowers to someone
Phone is I'm lonely or bored and I want to hear a voice and we just talk about tv shows or movies or our volunteer work
Skype is cheaper so if I we are both at home hanging out we will switch over to that.
Facebook is just liking each other's posts and leaving the occasional comment.
Messenger is when we want to drag a whole group into family news like when my mom broke her arm. Or to send funny gifs.
We have no expectation of response time for any of it. I would think something was up if it was more than a day though. We know we are friends so we don't worry about how long the conversation goes. It doesn't change the relationship if it's short or long. Shortest is two texts. Longest is two hour phone call.
posted by SyraCarol at 9:33 AM on September 6, 2016


Regular facebook messanger/gchat/text with siblings, occasional group text (maybe every other week when someone finds something amusing to share) with extended cousins my age/family; multiple emails daily with friends on other coasts; sometimes a texted picture of a child or pet doing something adorable through fb messenger or text.

Emails are conversational; and tend to go in bursts; we start a new thread each week, and some threads have 40-60 emails in them, and some have.... 4. Depends on the content of those emails, and how busy people are. Usual email length on a Monday morning is about 5-6 paragraphs, and by the end of the week it's 3-5 sentences as we go back and forth. I'll compose emails in bits and bobs throughout my day; it's not unusual for me to have 2-4 personal email conversations going at once throughout the day, but to only send out maybe 3 emails. I write them throughout the day as I think of things between work insanity/noticing something online that's relevant etc.

I tend to avoid phonecalls; I find them more exhausting than in person meetings or emails; but I do have some friends where we don't communicate for 3-4 months, and then have a 2hr phone call to catch up.
posted by larthegreat at 9:37 AM on September 6, 2016


(Between a friend of many years, in Los Angeles, and me, outside Ottawa, Canada; we have lived in the same place, and visited each other when living apart)

There are semi-regular texts (often silly, often with a photo; important stuff rarely comes via text) -- Facebook messages/wall posts (bit longer, slightly less jokey) -- e-mails (anything from a big ramble to a brief line) -- the odd Skype (often with beer on both ends). We are not telephone people but boozy video chat is somehow very different.

I don't pay a lot of attention to my phone when I'm not the one using it to contact somebody; it might be a day before I check texts. If it warrants a response I tend to integrate it into the next e-mail. If I get a serious e-mail I reply ASAP; if it's a long ramble I read ASAP but might not reply in full until I have time for my own long ramble. I might send a ramble apropos of nothing.

There's no 'it's X's turn to contact me.' We just shoot each other everything from dumb jokes to long rambles with odd personal secrets whenever.

It's interesting to me how different this is from when I was growing up -- then, you exchanged letters, usually taking turns instead of firing them off at random (a written letter begs a response in a way an electronic message doesn't, so it wouldn't have been polite to send a slew of letters and leave your poor friend with loads of letters to write, more or less, though if you wanted to add a little something extra -- your local thrift store probably has the "Thinking of you!" cards with a sad kitten on the front, or cartoon with a silly joke inside, that were infinitely more popular at the time), and periodically made a telephone call with an eye on the clock, long distance rates being what they were. Then you'd get your phone bill, see the charge, and reminisce a bit; a phone call from far away was such a bigger deal than it is now. Come to think of it, a letter from abroad was also more interesting. One might have soaked off an interesting stamp from an envelope, etc.

I have scrapbooks of all the letters (charmingly decorated) my grandmother sent me when I was a kid. I had a box of every postcard I'd received from my constantly-internationally-travelling grandfather, and others, though I haven't seen it for a while and it's either mixed in with my books or I've lost it and I don't want to think about the latter possibility. I also still have the one and only telegram I ever received, and a pile of letters from old friends from pre-e-mail days. This seems so odd now. I don't really hang on to old e-mail; I think I have printed and saved one, a compliment from a minor celebrity. But if somebody sends me a mixtape, or a written letter, that thing hangs around.

Snail mail is still involved with the friend in Los Angeles; we have long enjoyed sending each other the most absurd examples of gov't publications we can find, with a particular relish for very badly done anti-drug propaganda. He sends loads of random publications if they happen to have a "Postage paid..." spot for an address to be printed, and might scribble some things in the publication, editorializing. Mail theft...! Don't tell anybody.

Every now and then one of us becomes slightly exasperated with the other and we take a bit of a break, and then resume sending each other badly drawn drugs-will-kill-you comics and carrying on without discussion of whatever it was that exasperating. This has been a part of our otherwise caring and reliable relationship for two decades. Beats arguing. If something important came up during one of our 'breaks' the break would go out the window without discussion. Either one of us resumes contact whenever we feel like it.
posted by kmennie at 9:49 AM on September 6, 2016


I live about 2000 miles from most of my family and closest friends. We use a combination of Skype/Facetime (mostly on weekends when we have lots of time free that overlaps in terms of time zone convenience), texts/whatsapp (for running, throughout the day commentary), and, unfortunately, some pastiche of Facebook (for coordinating events, like who's staying at what hotel for a wedding) and Instagram for most everything else.

I really like Skype/Facetime for one on one conversations, or even small groups. The ability to easily have face to face contact is something that I longed for when I first moved away from all these people 15 or so years ago. It's an amazing reality, and one I find much more humanly satisfying than phone or text contact.

Most of these things aren't planned in terms of taking turns or rules about initiating contact. I'll usually call someone on the phone, if we start talking and time's free, I'll ask if they're home / around wifi. If so, I ask if they want to switch to Facetime, etc.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:59 AM on September 6, 2016


My female relatives (a group of cousins and sisters, mostly early 30s) are spread out geographically, but have had a group text chat going for the last 2-3 years that is used in spurts multiple times a week. We use it to chat and share info on upcoming events, funny pictures and stories, etc. - basically anything we want to talk about privately. We are also in contact via Facebook, phone, and e-mail, but the group text is definitely used the most. Recent topics included my cousin asking website advice, another sharing the gory details of her breast implant popping, everyone making arrangements on who is staying where for a family birthday party, and pictures of my niece getting braces. Usually someone just posts something out of the blue and then a few people will respond immediately or within the hour. Not everyone joins in to every topical conversation (unless it's really juicy), but we all read it to keep up with what is going on in everyone's life. The topics usually just die down on their own until someone else has something more they want to say, but that really has never been more than a couple days.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 10:01 AM on September 6, 2016


I gchat daily, just about, with a very close friend in another country. Mix of the minutiae of life (how was work, how are the dogs today) and more ambitious topics ("what are the elements of Chaplin's genius?"). Both of us despise the phone; an asynchronous medium works best for us, because you can drop the thread of conversation and pick it up again on and off through the evening. It's fortunate that we feel much the same way about conversational mediums, because if we had to call each other regularly, we probably would've drifted apart long ago.
posted by praemunire at 10:05 AM on September 6, 2016


Combo of social media (Twitter/Snapchat mostly) and email.

We're both likely to tweet about our lives every day, and I would say most days, not necessarily every day, one of us responds to something the other has said and we have a little exchange of anywhere from 2-20 back-and-forth tweets. They might be anything - observations about some piece of media, work griping, cute cat pictures, question about how people do some random thing (like right now I'm considering a Twitter poll about whether other people need to be under a blanket to fall asleep or whether that's just me, I guarantee that's going to get me some tweets from her about my weird sleeping habits).

My friend is also a prolific/knowledgeable Snapchatter and I get Snapchats from her pretty much everyday with, like - pictures of her lunch, her cats, a sunset, some weird new Snapchat filter she's playing with. They are totally delightful for making me feel like I'm in touch with the little everyday ebb and flow of her life. I am not very good at remembering to do Snapchat in return but sometimes I do send similar things.

We send emails a lot but they vary - sometimes several emails back and forth in a day, sometimes one of us (me, lately, alas) can't get our shit together to send real email for weeks at a time. Again, content could be anything but is likely to be the stuff that is not social media appropriate - maybe an unpacking of something we discussed on Twitter that really deserves more than 140 characters, maybe a tough time one of us is having that we don't want to go into publicly, maybe just random "hey here's what I'm knitting / here's my latest fan fiction idea" kind of stuff.

The email response time is all over the place, social media response time could vary from a couple of minutes to a day or two. I don't really keep track or stress about it.

I also don't keep track of who starts the next conversation or how many back and forths there are - I would find that really stressful and unhappy-making. I will say that both of us are likely to just drop in with a "hey, I'm just thinking about you and hoping you're having a great day" or whatever, so it's never just one person initiating except when one of us is going through one of those "I have forgotten how to be human because of brain weasels, I am going radio silent" phases, and we both have those and so are pretty understanding when the other person does. Eventually reciprocity always reasserts itself when the brain weasels shut up.
posted by Stacey at 10:06 AM on September 6, 2016


Group texts are awesome for keeping in sort of low level, low pressure contact with as much frequency as you like. I have a group text with my two best friends; we all live hours apart from each other but our group text keeps us in touch and informed about day to day stuff. Probably more so than if we lived near each other and just relied on in person interactions. We send each other photos (pets, kids, home projects, funny stuff), ask about weekend plans, make plans, share news about mutual friends or our families, bitch about work or health or families or whatever else. With three people involved you don't have to respond to every text, the conversation keeps going without you sometimes and you catch up and jump in when you want/can. Sometimes I pick up my phone and find I've missed 30 or 40 texts (my friends can be chatty! I love it).

I have other group texts, with siblings, one with my sister and two sister-in laws, one with several cousins. Those are more fluid and change depending on whether we are discussing a specific get-together or something else. I have some friends that I text individually, and there often seems a natural stopping point for the conversation, and one or the other of us will send a new text within a couple of weeks, sometimes longer.
posted by JenMarie at 10:06 AM on September 6, 2016


I see my parents 3-4 times a year, but I call one of them every week day on my way to/from work. It's a short 15 minute call, and if one of us can't do it, we text to wish each other a good day. With my sister, we text each other jokes and call once every few weeks.
posted by sadmadglad at 10:11 AM on September 6, 2016


I text with my best friend who lives a plane flight away - not daily and sometimes not even weekly but generally a few times a week. Often we'll have a short conversation - 2-5 texts each before trailing off. Mostly commiserating over life (work/commuting/to do lists/health/etc) or sharing funny things our kids do. Sometimes we respond instantly, but sometimes it's days. Depends on the topic and our availability! We've been best friends for 15 years so neither of us has any problem initiating multiple times if we'd like - it's pretty casual, it's basically a running conversation. We used to talk on the phone more but it's gotten hard now that we both have little kids, so texting is easier.
posted by john_snow at 10:31 AM on September 6, 2016


I am in regular long-distance contact with my parents and my sister.

I skype with my mom regularly on the weekends (so, weekly, unless one of us is away). We sometimes make a specific appointment/time, often it's more like an emailed "I'll be home all day on Saturday and I'll leave Skype on." We talk about interesting things that happened that week, I guess? We talk about cooking, I ask her advice about gardening. If one of us is planning something big (a trip, hosting a party) we often talk about that. She gives me the rundown on local relatives that I don't see. My dad sometimes says hi in these conversations, or he'll answer the "phone", but my conversations with him are generally shorter than with my mom.

I chat with my sister on Google Hangouts regularly (every few days or so). These conversations are usually short (<1>
Me/my mom/my sister also email each other. Frequency varies, but usually not more than once a week. These are usually cell phone photos with some commentary, and responses, rather than long threads. My mom does most of the emailing.
posted by quaking fajita at 11:19 AM on September 6, 2016


I moved countries, so I see family members only once or twice a year at best, but I keep in touch with my sister every 1-3 days via a chat client, my brother more sporadically on Facebook chat, and my father or mother probably a couple times a week.

Messaging starts on either side; usually my parents will ask if I'm here (like "Hi, you around?"), but with my sister one of us will just mention some interesting fact we'd like to talk about (e.g. "so the concert last night was awesome.").

If the other one is present, it then turns into an exchange that could run any amount of time from a couple minutes to half an hour or more, depending what we have to talk about. If the other person is not home, they might come back a few hours later when they do get in front of their laptop.

I have a different group of friends that I'm on a casual group chat with, and there I interact with the chat every day or two, though that doesn't guarantee interaction with any specific friends at that time. But the chat interface retains everyone's scrollback, so that allows me to look back and see what people said when I wasn't there, and that lets me stay pretty up on everyone's news.
posted by shattersock at 11:20 AM on September 6, 2016


Oh, and the other thing I used to do with my sister was watch TV together, so we'd get on the phone or on text and sync starting the show at the same time. We do that less now because there are just too many time zones between us to make that work, but it's a great way to spend time with someone far away even if you don't have lots of news.
posted by shattersock at 11:21 AM on September 6, 2016


My best friend and I tend to just text each other randomly throughout the week. Usually in the evening, since we both have busy jobs during the daytime. If the other person is available it will start a regular back and forth (nearly "real time" speed) for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. On occasion, if the subject matter necessitates it (too complicated to explain over text, or on the rare occasion we have a disagreement) it becomes a phone call. There may be 1-3 days between text sessions but that is usually the longest it goes.

Content might be anything from movies we've watched lately, hobbies or self-improvement type stuff (exercise, meditation), dating stuff, funny things that happened to us recently, asking for advice.

My sister lives in town so we either text the same way as above, or wait til her schedule lines up with mine and she'll usually come over to my place to hang out, craft, watch movies, etc. That is maybe once a week. Our texts tend to be on the topics of crafting, movies/music, other hobbies, and whatever woes we're currently dealing with.

I have a job where I am on the phone most of the day, hence my skewed preference for text messages.
posted by nightrecordings at 11:57 AM on September 6, 2016


I DM on Twitter all the time (10-15 per day or so) with a dear friend who lives 1000 miles away. We sent each other tweets/animal pictures/news stories or just general chat about our lives.

I think we might have started with Twitter because back in the day, she (or I?) didn't have unlimited texting. It's a bummer that I can't export all these Twitter DMs because there's lots of good stuff there :)
posted by getawaysticks at 1:07 PM on September 6, 2016


I had a friend I met at a part time job, when the job was over, we said, "oh lets get together soon" and life took over and we'd get busy, and it never happened. Then we'd see each other at Acme (yes, this really is a supermarket) and say the same thing, and unfortunately still not keep in touch. She is a lovely person, we are both teachers, but don't have too many more hobbies in common.

I came up with an idea where we meet once a month for dinner, BUT we can't leave the table until we schedule our next month's date. It has worked out fantastically! It eliminates the whole, "I'll call you" thing AND since we're only meeting once a month, the topics are nice summaries of whats been going on, no crazy detail day-to-day stuff. We usually don't text or call each other - because life - but this once a month dinner has been great - we get to catch up on everything in the past month, vent about principals, and have a yummy meal too.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:10 PM on September 6, 2016


I am VERY invested in staying connected with my friends. I am interested in Minutuae, Projects, and Advice when it comes to my long-term friendships.
Here's how I do it--

My best friend and I are very close (I described our relationship in this Metafilter answer). We live in the same city about 3 miles apart, and we both have very flexible schedules. We share ALL our Minutiae:
~3 texts per day
Somewhere between one and seven short phonecalls (1-5 min) every day, usually when one person is driving or cleaning, in which we tell a funny story that just happened or rant about something annoying, or just check in to say hi and see if the other is having a good day. These are so frequent we barely say hi- we're more likely to make a weird noise in greeting (like we moan a whale sound or sing a bit of a Rick Astley song or something), and we barely say bye, as we both know the convo will continue shortly.
We also have a 60 min phonecall that often has an Advice theme, about once or twice a week, again when one person is driving or cleaning. We share longer stories about work or our relationships or families. Lots of ranting and laughing and advice and problem-solving and goofing off.
One of us drops in on the other about every 2 weeks, often unannounced. We used to live only 5 blocks apart, and used to drop in on each other maybe twice a week, bringing breakfast or a cookie or borrowing a random item or just saying hi on the way to somewhere else, or maybe hollering "I'm driving to the mall, and I'm downstairs, wanna put on pants and come with me?"

We also help each other with Projects- like a major housecleaning or renovation or getting the house ready for a party. That's actually the highest-quality time we spend, when it's physical and project-based. Much better way to spend time than sitting in a bar somewhere!

I'm close with another few friends who I talk to for 20 minutes about 2 times a month, and see maybe 4 times a year. We tend to call when we want Advice about a situation the other knows well.

I think there's tremendous value in sharing Minutiae. Catching up about life milestones is kind of empty and weird. Arguing about whether it's rude, when sharing gum, to un-pop a single chicklet of gum from a blister pack into the other person's hand, or more polite to hand them the whole pack of gum, is the kind of convo that lets you know who your friends are.

On the minutia front- I also have some Internet Friends who know each other from college- there are 6 of us, in different cities. We have a million gmail threads going- our rule is to start a new thread with each new subject, so conversation threads die out and maybe get resurrected later when the topic comes up again. Sometimes we'll type out a life update or funny anecdote (these are the best messages, usually 100-300 words, and always get replies, but they are labour intensive), and sometimes we send a link or article and have brief convos about it. The links today were political ads, a funny photo one of us dug up that showed another of us in college, and someone else shared a family member's health update.

And I am very close friends with my college roommates, who all live in different cities. We are in a long group text message that has a busy night of contributions about once a month and a few random little texts every week or so, usually about funny Minutiae, or Advice about ongoing dramas in our life (someone's relationship problem or a work drama or a quick vent about a family thing). Usually at least 2 people will respond to these messages with either a supportive brief message ("ugh, sorry, hope you're ok, would doing XY help?"), or a bit of help/advice, or a joke). Then once a year when we're all in the same city, we rent a place and go away for a night or two of wine and long, funny and serious conversations in a hot tub somewhere with no partners or kids, which is amazing.

I have one friend who is my Projects friend- we help each other with art projects and sometimes home logistic projects like painting or moving. That friend is really kinesthetic and outcome driven, doesn't like to talk as much, so we tend to have more Action in our hangouts.

A lot of adult friendships become about Polite Slightly Formal Conversations While Sitting Up Straight At Brunch, and I hate that. I'd much rather do dishes with you and yell about why tube socks suck!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:09 PM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am in regular contact with my mother who lives in another city. Once a week, on Sunday afternoons/evenings, I phone her and my Dad on Facetime. I used to phone them on the phone, but Facetime does not incur long distance charges, so we use it even though half the time, they point the camera at the ceiling while we talk. It also means I sometimes get to see my niece and nephew and boop their adorable little noses through the camera.

Throughout the week, we have regular contact on iMessage and/or SMS, depending on whether or not I am home when I start the conversation. She always imessages me, but I have an Android phone and don't carry my mac or iPad normally, so if I initiate a conversation outside of the house, I do it by SMS. It all looks like imessage to her anyway.

What prompts a conversation is usually either a brief question -- 'did you get the thing I sent?' 'what day are you coming home again?' 'how do I thread the sewing machine for a twin needle?' -- or something one of us saw on the internet and thought the other would be interested in (or, in my case, if I think my Dad or niece would be interested in, I send it to my mom, too, since they don't independently use technology). Sometimes it'll be a bit of personal news that isn't necessarily timed right for a phone call -- "I just got my grades." "I just got my medical test results, they are normal.".

If the conversation goes on for more than a few minutes of back and forth, one of us will usually facetime the other because it is theoretically faster than typing. In practice, our phone conversations are rarely short, since they end up covering a lot of other topics rather than whatever we were texting about.

There's no sense that if one person left off the conversation, the other person has to pick it back up later -- it's just whoever next has something new to say.

Response time if we are both home is usually within seconds or a minute or two depending on how long the response takes to type on a soft keyboard. If one of us is not home, it can be hours or overnight, especially since we are in different time zones. There's usually no urgency to responding to text messages, because if they were important, we would have called. And by called, I mean Facetime. Unless it was really, really important, in which case we might phone, because somehow real phone calls seem more official or important or something.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:37 PM on September 6, 2016


Oh, also, sometimes we sit on Facetime for hours on end playing two player computer games with each other and not really talking any more than we would if we were playing cards together face-to-face, which is to say -- periodically muttering rude words at each other for stealing a move or taking a card we needed or something. When you play cards in my family, you shut up and play cards, you don't sit around having a conversation while you happen to be holding cards in your hand. It doesn't mean you have to be silent, but you're not also holding forth on that thing you read on HuffPo yesterday.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:43 PM on September 6, 2016


I'm in almost daily contact with my two closest friends and about 2x/weekly contact with my sister. We use a combination of phone calls, text messages, Gmail and gchat, gifs, and I also write a fair amount of cards, letters, postcards, as snail mail is one of my hobbies. I made a decision to try harder to keep the communication strong with these women, and so I've also been drawing pictures or writing colorful short notes and taking a photo of it and sending it in a text. One close friend and I do "selfies of the day," where we basically make whatever stupid face and text it to the other. We try to do them every day. I also use Facebook a lot to communicate with folks since all my people are all over the damned world.

In terms of how long the conversation goes, can be hours here and there, or just a few texts, like "I live for Katya being Bjork, it's changing my life right now!" usually followed by "omfg yesssss." I think a lot of little messages to people you care about is just as important as long epic conversations.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 9:14 PM on September 6, 2016


My best friend/cousin lives in another city.

- We have planned weekly calls or "phone dates". Monday evenings we talk on the phone for usually about an hour. If we're unavailable that night we let the other know and reschedule. Topics include the random things going on in our respective lives, especially work annoyances, family, friends, ridiculous things we did, etc. We're also cousins so there is also lots of family gossip to chat about. Discussing future cousin weekends is also frequent, planning out what we're going to do, what videogame we're going to play through, what movies we want to watch, what food we're going to make.
- periodically if one of us is having a properly stupid time we will call the other at work and vent. This more often happens that SHE calls ME to vent.
- sometimes she calls me early on saturday or sunday mornings to chat while she housecleans.
- She doesn't have a cell phone (I know I know, it is insane) so no texting.
- She sucks out loud at email but I do send her fairly regular emails (a couple times a week) with the expectation that there is only a 50% chance that she'll read it and a 15% chance she'll reply. A lot of it is me just talking at myself, but it gives us a steady stream of opportunity to interact if need be.
- She JUST got facebook and will occasionally send me a facebook message, but she's pretty crappy at that too. LOL
- Every 6-8 weeks we have a "cousin weekend" where I abandon my son and husband and go stay with her for the weekend. This is our super intense quality friendship time and holy hell they are effing fun. We've been doing this for about a decade, and back in the day cousin weekends often included going out bar hopping/clubbing, but nowadays that just isn't our scene anymore. The hangovers just aren't worth it. We exist only in pyjamas, eat junk food (not exclusively), play video games with a scary level of intensity, and watch horror movies. We only leave the apartment for food, movie rentals, or additional craft supplies. I'm actually leaving for a cousin weekend tomorrow, making it an extra long one because we're going to add sewing our own clothes to the cousin weekend plans! WHEE!
- Our parents live close to one another, so we occasionally try to coordinate when we visit our respective parents so that there is an overlap, thus creating additional opportunities for hangoutz.



Semi-related, I don't see my parents all that super often, but we have a "sunday call" tradition in our family. Every sunday my parents call me and my sisters in turn. It is really nice and it is a tradition I hope to continue when my kid moves out.

I honestly believe in having phone calls scheduled and recurring very useful.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:02 PM on September 7, 2016


I have many friends that live far away -- one of the perils of moving a lot, I guess. For the most part, we keep in touch over gchat during the day and then over text in the evenings. Phone calls are very rare. We talk about ... everything, I guess? The things friends talk about: how our day is going, what's new at work, what the kids are up to, home improvement projects, real estate/apartments if someone is moving, logistics, our latest craft projects, partners, books we're reading, authors we've liked, trips we've taken, politics, statistics, podcasts, parenting philosophies, etc etc etc.

I tend to prefer gchat over text for the "bigger" conversations, as typing is easier on my keyboard than on my phone/tablet. We use texting also more for pictures of what we've been talking about or whatever (here's a picture of the scarf I'm weaving, or the yarn I'm thinking of using, that kind of thing).

Facebook we use less for actual conversations, but will often have conversations about our FB posts off of FB. One friend I do have some Twitter conversations with, as our Twitter lives are more in sync than other places.

Response times vary, but we always pick up again at some point! Often I am the one not responding as I go to bed earlier than others, but then we pick back up in the morning. With different friends, it differs on when we pick things back up. One friend will send a chat when she gets in to work, another will send a chat when she gets online for the day and if I'm not there, will text me to see what's up, another friend it's more dependent on the day which one of us says something first (whoever has something they want to chat about). I would say sometimes we are truly having a conversation with rapid back and forth, and sometimes we are just sort of sharing something that happened, and then moving along and going back to our own things. It's very fluid, and one thing I like (but not all friends that I communicate with in this way seem to be on the same page) is that I don't feel guilty for not responding right away, and conversation can pick back up later without a lot of time spent on "sorry, X happened and I had to leave". Of course if X is an important part of our lives and we want to talk about it, then we can talk about that!
posted by freezer cake at 3:20 PM on September 7, 2016


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