As a child I grew up hearing horror stories about all the creeps from the internet who would kidnap young ladies. I had all the warnings that many 90’s/early 2000’s kids got about how one should never meet anyone from the internet. Yet somehow, despite all of this, I now find myself in the year 2017 and all of my closest friends are people I met online. Keeping up with online friends can be tricky, however. The geographic barriers make it difficult to enjoy mutual activities together. Over the years, though, I’ve found many great methods for keeping up with my pixel people.
Here are my 10 favorite ways to keep connected with internet friends.
1.) Movie nights
First, sign into your favorite video call client. From there, you have a few options for how to proceed. If you have Netflix, you can use a video syncing service such as Showgoers. You also can watch together via Rabb.it, which integrates video chat, text chat, and allows streaming from pretty much any online service. If you have DVDs rather than video streaming, you also can simply do a “3, 2, 1…” countdown and hit play at the same time. If you opt for this last method, I suggest that whoever does the countdown waits 3-4 seconds before hitting play, as it takes time for your audio to reach the other person and for them to react. This makes it more likely that your video experience will be in sync.
2.) Read together
Pick a book or a topic of study and plan a regular time to meet on video chat or have a phone call to discuss what you’re reading. This can be especially great if you do a book that comes with discussion questions. Learning about a topic with a friend is not only more fun, but a great way to get to know each other better!
3.) Challenge each other
Try to keep your post count on Instagram matched. Do a daily or weekly blogging challenge together. Agree to create a similar form of content and critique each other’s work. Track your exercise or step counts and compete for the highest scores. Have pun battles. Come up with a topic and each draw a picture or write a short story and then compare your results. Challenges can be entertaining and help you grow. Doing them together gives a great sense of camaraderie!
Do you have certain types of projects in common? Work together! Do a video collab. Write something together. Create a comic series. I’ve also seen people collaborate on craft projects via snail mail. Send quilt blocks and fabric back and forth. Work together on a jewelry making project. Draw a picture together. There are a lot of great things you can create with a friend!
5.) Share a journal
It doesn’t need to be one of those top-secret super personal journals. Last year a friend bought us a couple of Wreck This Journal Everywhere books. We have fun doing the challenges and fill-ins and occasionally sharing photos of what we’ve done. We also have the Steal Like an Artist journal, which we trade back and forth each time we have an occasion to see each other in person.
6.) Make each other playlists
If you have similar music tastes (or are open to trying new things), receiving a playlist from your friend can feel really special. I love coming up with themed lists that remind me of certain people or of activities that we enjoy. For example, I’ve come up with travel and stargazing themed playlists to share with a friend who I’ve done those activities with. What else can be fun is surprising your friend by mailing them a mix CD of songs that are reminiscent of your friendship or jokes.
7.) Have dinner together
Let’s face it: eating alone is generally less enjoyable. So why not give your friend a Skype call over dinner and make the meal a little more social? Heck, you could even plan to eat the same food and exchange tales of your preparation mishaps as you munch!
8.) Game nights
If you have a lot of online friends who know each other (or who are cool with meeting new people), agree on a time to have a big Google Hangout and play some games. You could play a video game together over Steam, or you can get creative with the formatting and try a non-digital game. One of my favorite games to play over video chat is Bring Your Own Book. I also have a group of friends who enjoy adapting The Resistance to be played via a combination of Google Hangouts and private messages on Facebook. Another game I’ve found to work well is the Jackbox Party Pack.
9.) Send snail mail
As great as it is to have the instant communication of texting and video chat, getting tangible letters in the mail is special. It allows for a different sort of creativity than internet communication does. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy getting something other than bills and ads?
This breaks the realm of distance communications, sure. But if you have the option to, visit your far-away friend! Plan your next vacation trip to be in their area so that you can meet up and they can play tour guide. If you happen to be driving in or near their town on your way to some other place, let them know ahead of time so that you can grab a quick snack together! Any opportunity for real face-to-face time is exciting and brings the friendship closer in a big way. Maybe you can even plan to attend an annual event somewhere together.
How do you stay connected?
If you have a favorite means of keeping up an internet friendship, drop me a comment below! I’d love to hear about your experiences.