If you’re just now joining the conversation, we’ve been talking a lot about social media around here — the good, the bad, the airbrushed — and one point that’s come up a lot is the extent to which Facebook and Instagram can make us feel close to others, when we might not actually be. When we see the highlights of the people we know, are we really keeping in touch? It can certainly feel like it, but when it comes to truly maintaining deep and meaningful friendships, a “like” just doesn’t cut it.

Most of my family, including my sister, lives across the world, and one of my very best friends is in the UK. Believe it or not, social media doesn’t play a role in our keeping in touch at all. Instead, it’s the frequent phone calls and consistent communication that have kept our relationships strong for years. But there’s more to it than that. Here are my 6 tips for keeping your most far-away people feeling close.

1. Look ahead.

Whether it be 6 months away or 3 years away, it helps to always have your next reunion on the calendar. Knowing that you have another meeting date on the horizon gives you a shared event to look forward to, and instantly prolongs the life of your relationship.

2. Create traditions.

Think about it: the holidays, annual family reunions, they exist to serve as a predetermined gathering time each year. But really, these traditions can look like whatever works best for you. My sister, her husband, and her two kids live in Israel, so we’ve created a ritual where she comes to Texas in the spring, and I visit her every summer. With that, I know that at the very least I’ll see them twice a year.

3. Don’t forget birthdays (and Facebook doesn’t count)

Let’s be honest. Facebook birthday messages take about as much effort as a high five. Instead, take the time to make a phone call, have a video chat, or even send a gift.

photo credit oh happy day

4. Use snail mail. 

Sending a handwritten note on cute stationery is about the easiest thing you can do to cheer someone up. Whether it’s to celebrate a new home, a baby, or just to say ‘hi,’ do this one thing to let your far-away friend know you care.

5. Use technology.

Social media is great, but it doesn’t encourage any real one-on-one interactions. When it comes to sustaining my long-distance relationships, I’m nothing without WhatsApp and FaceTime for true substantive catch-ups.

6. Get creative.

When your friends or family live across the world, seeing one another takes cleverness and out-of-the-box thinking. Stay in regular communication to know whether your personal travels align. You never know when you might be able to coordinate a meet in another city, or choose flight itineraries that allow you to extend a layover near one another. I often intentionally look for flights connecting in London just to sneak in a 24-hour visit with one of my best friends!

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Chanel Dror