Maintaining Friendships in the Time of COVID-19
I've been blessed with some wonderful friends throughout my life. I've always been a part of a girl gang through school, college, and the workplace. Except, the girls have changed. I'm a military brat, so growing up, making new friends every 2-3 years was nothing new.
However, despite the advent of social media, I just couldn't keep in touch with my social circle and instead invested my efforts in making new friends. It seemed like the only legit option. I often assumed my inability to form lasting bonds was a price I paid for entering a different phase of life or growing in another direction.
Sure, some of the girls I have been friends with were catty, competitive, and highly toxic. But most were nice and good human beings in general. We looked out for each other and stood by each other through thick and thin. Until we didn't. It never crossed my mind to wonder why we stopped, or rather, I stopped.
Life got busy, or at least, that was what I would tell myself. The same thing happened when I got married and moved to a different city. I bid goodbye to my friends without actually bidding them goodbye. I don't know why.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has not helped either. I have grown apart from the people I call my friends today. Sometimes, I sit and wonder, "Do I even have friends?" and "Am I seriously this unfriendly?!"
The past two years have changed the way we interact with people, let alone friends. And for me, working harder (and longer hours) became a priority.
But with so much uncertainty around us and so many life transitions taking place — we're talking job changes, mandated isolation, sick and dying family members — I realized I couldn't stay isolated anymore.
Believe it or not, despite my apprehensions, I have made considerable strides to remain in touch with a handful of people. I am not overly communicative, but I still manage to reach out. Pandemic or not, here are some ways you can deepen your friendship with the people you care about:
Schedule a Time To Have a Video Call
We all say things like “let's talk sometime” and then never actually get around to it. An excellent way to make sure that a video call with your friend happens is to schedule it on your calendars.
Agree upon a time in advance and set aside at least half an hour for a good chat. Also, choose a frequency that works for you and your friends. You don't have to video chat every week. If once a month or two months works for you, do that.
Remind Your Friend of Your Favorite Shared Memories
If you come across an old photo with them while scrolling through your phone, share it with your friend and add a nice note, like “waiting to make more memories together.” You can even call them to recount a memory you can both laugh about.
Sharing memories is a great way to let your friend know they're in your thoughts. Similarly, share memes if they remind you of a specific instance you shared with your friend. Memes offer a great way to break the ice and start a conversation.
Send Baked Goodies
Amidst these challenging times, a freshly baked sweet treat is the perfect pick-me-up. Give your friend a midweek surprise by having their favorite cakes or cookies delivered to them.
Have Virtual Meetups With Office Colleagues With a Favorite Beverage
Office catch-ups during the coffee break are no longer a thing, but you can create your virtual alternative to it. Schedule a group video call where you dress casually, and each has your drink of choice and keep the conversation focused on non-work topics only.
Promote Your Friend’s Business or Hobby
Many people have used the lockdown as an opportunity to take up a new hobby or start a small business. If you have friends who've done that, show them some love!
Promote their business on your social media page, buy their products, leave them great reviews, and recommend them to your friends and family.
Starting something new is always daunting, and knowing that you have their back will mean immensely to your friend and strengthen the bond you two share.
Communicate via Social Media
Even if in-depth direct conversations can't always happen, you can always use social media to communicate in other ways. You can share cute memes, tag each other on friendship posts, or even nominate each other for online giveaways.
The little things go a long way to show that you care about your friend and want to keep your connection alive, no matter how busy you are.
Respond to Text Messages and DMs
We all have those times when we just can't respond promptly to messages, even if we mean to. However, as much as you can, don't let conversations drop. Get back to messages, even if it's a few days later, and casually pick things up from where you left off. Your friends won't mind — they know that life is complicated for all of us right now.
Invite Them Over for Lunch at Your House
There's absolutely no substitute for in-person bonding. If your friends live in the same city, consider hosting a get-together at home over lunch or dinner.
It's essential to keep in mind that some friends may not be comfortable with an in-person meeting just yet, and that's okay. Have the others over, and call the ones who couldn't come so you can all say hi to them.
And yes, cherish every second of the lunch. It's likely happening after a long time, and you've kept the friendship going all this time — which is truly special.
Friendship is one of the most valuable aspects of our lives, no matter what channels we use to cultivate and maintain those friendships. If there's one thing the pandemic has brought home to us, it's that life is too short not to celebrate the people you love.
So, make that call, share that dog meme, send that handwritten note, say “I miss you” — show your friends you love them, and bask in the love yourself.