8 Creative Ways To “Hang Out” With Far-Away Friends

So, you are here and your friends / loved ones / cuddle buddies are elsewhere. Maybe they’re down the street, across town, in another state, on the other side of the world. Maybe they miss you. And maybe you miss them. And maybe you’re tired of the routine text or phone call or email — you want to connect differently, say different things, be involved in each others’ lives in ways that don’t necessarily involve “like”-ing a status.

There tons of ways to stay in contact that go above and beyond the “How are you”s and “I’m doing fine”s, if you’re willing to be creative. When I moved to New York after college, the people I loved and communicated with most were all over the country, and all over the world — Ohio, Michigan, France, Argentina, Korea and California. The locations would swap and change and overlap from time to time, but what mattered most was that even though we were Here and There, we could still do the things we used to do together — read poetry out loud to each other, share recipes, and mix drinks with each other.

Staying in touch is important. So I knocked heads with the rest of the Contributing Editor team to come up with this fantastic list of things you can do to keep in touch! You can tell people you miss the ever-loving daylights out of them in so many ways. Who knew?

 

8 Cool Ways To Keep In Touch With Your Friends That Aren’t Facebook

 

The Skype Read-around

someone please read this at their next read-around. via goodreads.com

In college, my friends and I would regularly have read-arounds hosted at peoples’ houses — these involved sitting around in a circle in someone’s living room, drinking green tea, eating finger sandwiches (cucumber and dill on rye seemed to be really prevalent) and reading poetry, fiction or non-fiction that we either read from books or wrote ourselves. We had a thing for Emily Dickinson (lovingly nicknamed EmDick) and we would read everything from Eileen Myles to excerpts from erotic novels.

Since we moved to our different parts of the world, we started semi-regularly having Skype read-arounds, where we would do a group video chat, see each other for the first time in how many weeks or months, and each take turns reading our new favorite bits of writing to each other. This works particularly well if you and/or your friends are literature geeks or writers or poets — each time you meet, assemble a stack of books you like next to your computer (if you’re old school) or bookmark all of the poems you’d like to read in your browser. Read away.

 

 

The Long-Distance Movie (or TV) Night

“Clea Duvall” as a movie night theme completely appropriate for Skype movie night. via listal.com

When I was living in New York City and my partner Jessie was in Kentucky, we would regularly watch new episodes of Mad Men together with our GChat windows open. As we watched, we would live-chat our feelings about the show (“OMG PEGGY” “OMG JOAN LOOKS HOT”) and commiserate about weird music choices (“WHY IS THE DECEMBERISTS ON MAD MEN WHY”). If typing isn’t your thing, you can also do a movie date over Skype, so you can see each others’ reactions, particularly if you’re watching a horror movie (“The Ring”) or hot ladies wearing hot pants (“Whip It”). Grab a slice of pizza and nom with each other like you’re across the couch from each other. Or do a long-distance theme night! Autostraddle has lots of suggestions for that.

 

 

Group Blogging

if you group blog, don’t be this guy. via toothpastefordinner.com

Sometimes updating Facebook constantly with life things isn’t necessarily the best, especially if you want to vent or share life details with a small group of people. Enter: group blogging! Here you can update the blog with posts on what’s going on in each of your lives, plug the blog’s RSS into your Google Reader, and stay updated on what’s happening with your circle of friends.

If you’re usually banging your head against the wall for good things to blog about, or if you’re not particularly blog-inclined, you can have regular writing prompts (“What’s the most frustrating thing that happened this week?”) or themes for your blog. I had a boss who did a group blog with friends around the country, and the blog was baking themed, and she would regularly post up pictures of tarts and bundt cakes. Other ideas? Collage blog. The Many Iterations of Stir Fry blog. Knitting blog. Aspiring DJs blog. Olde Tyme Carpentry and Woodworking blog. Etc.

You can also create a private tumblr to share with each other your thoughts and feelings and links and photos of the day.

 

 

The Long-Distance Jam Session

your skype jam session could potentially look like this. via youtube.com

If you and your friends are in any way musically inclined (and the baseline of what I mean by “musically inclined” is “can keep a tune with a kazoo”), you can play music together long-distance! I was Skyping with my brother who lives in Michigan the other day, and we both happened to be holding our guitars as we turned on the Skype screen. What happened next? We picked a key (the key of D seemed to work) and he started jamming out some rhythm guitar with his acoustic, and I soloed on my electric guitar over him. We played everything from Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” to “The General” by Dispatch.

If you have a friend who plays guitar, and your singing isn’t so shabby, try doing a duet. Or if you feel like you can keep a beat, bring a tamborine. Or if you need more of it, play some cowbell. The possibilities are endless.

 

Postcarding and Letter-Sending

I’d love to get a postcard from Muskegon. via http://www.billyspostcards.com

Getting a letter or postcard in the mail is awesome. I had some friends in college who were really into mailing letters to each other, and we sent a few letters back and forth after we all moved to our respective places. These letters included sketches of diners or coffee shops we were sitting in, obsessive David Foster Wallace-esque footnotes, drawings of cats, words that were written VERY BIG, and ink of various colors and pens of various types (fountain, ball, dip-and-ink).

There’s a lot of stuff goes missing when we just type messages to each other — particularly the shape of the lower-case E in your friend’s handwriting, or the way Ts are crossed, or the ever-slanting slant of your friend’s handwriting on unlined paper. My favorite thing to get is sketches on blank, unlined paper. I’ve written recipes on blank paper to send to friends, with the various parts of the recipe drawn out by hand.

Another option is using a typewriter for your letter-sending — I was really into typewriters for a while, and so we have one manual typewriter here in New York and another electric one in Michigan. Make it a treasure hunt: Go to flea markets and garage sales to find the perfect typewriter. Then type. Type type type. And stick a stamp on it.

 

 

Online Videogame Bonding

A screencap of Spiral Knights, if you want to give it a try. via ggftw.com

Video games can be used for long-distance bonding, too! And it’s not just restricted to World of Warcraft, though if that’s your thing, you do you. I regularly game on Steam, but you can check out places like Xbox Live and the Playstation Network to catch up with your gamer friends. I’ve been playing some free-to-play online video games with my brothers on Steam, and because some of our computers are slower than others, we’ve settled on a multiplayer co-op game called Spiral Knights. What we do is turn on the game and then turn on Skype audio chat so we can talk to each other or yell at each other as we go through the dungeons.

Other good co-op games you can play on Steam include Torchlight II (a Diablo-esque treasure-hunting RPG) and Portal 2, where you get to play as two adorable Portal-shooting robots. Game away!

 

 

Skype Drinking

Down the hatch! via wikipedia.com

One of my favorite long-distance staying-in-touch activities is Skype drinking. This involves opening a bottle of wine or mixing yourself a bloody Mary (or two) and turning on Skype — all that’s left is chatting over drinks like you’re in the same room with each other, even if you’re five states away.

One possibility is having a Skype drink experiment date, where you all choose a particular drink you’d like to try — maybe a homemade whiskey sour, maybe a Guinness float, maybe a flaming cinnamon martini — and make it at home. Then you can go around talking and sipping on the same drink. If your drink of the week is a dud, you can complain about it together and then mix yourself something better. This is probably my favorite long-distance activity of all.

 

 

Journal Swap

For real: Someone is going to be my journal swap buddy and we are going to use TARDIS journals. via http://lilythepink7.deviantart.com/

Get yourself a hefty notebook (Moleskines have been often suggested to me), find a buddy and journal in your journal. Write about what you had for breakfast, or how the dog licks your toes in the morning, or what kind of pizza is your favorite pizza or which constellation you like the most. Then when you’ve journaled for a month, get your buddy’s mailing address, and you both send each other your journals. Journal swap! Once you get your friend’s journal, you continue writing in your friend’s the notebook and read what they went through each day. This way you get a recap of everything you missed out on since you’ve been apart, and you get the catharsis of writing a day-to-day letter to the person you’re missing most.

Get some great notebook suggestions here and here, and get your pens at the ready.

 

 

So what are the quirky and creative things you do to stay in contact with loved ones?

Profile photo of Whitney

Whitney is a lover of food, books, comic books and journals made for left-handed people. She is a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University, where she studies video games and new media. She is also a graphic designer, writer and editor who has worked for places like Opium Magazine, Literary Death Match, Publishers Weekly and The Feminist Press. Check out her blog at whitneypow.com and follow her on Twitter @whitneypow.

Whitney has written 51 articles for us.

35 Comments

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    I just started a smallart-letter-DIY pen pal situation with a new friend from Cali (I’m in Denver). It’s awesome! We snail mail each other any small pieces of art or crafts we make along with a letter. We limit it to anything that can fit in an envelope (I can make a lot fit into an envelope). Then every seasonal change we will send out a shoe box full of goodies.

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    My high school friends and I send mixtapes out. Every person is assigned a month and then has to mail the CD to everyone else along with a song list & explanation. It’s a great way to get new music and hear about everyone’s lives.

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    My ex-girlfriend and I used to do skype dinner together. We would each cook dinner while skyping and then eat together. We also did a lot of skype drinking.

    Also, my friends and I are starting a traveling journal. Kind of like journal swap mixed with Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. We got a thin journal (cheaper to mail). One person will write in it and then mail it to another person who will write in it, send it off, and so on.

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      LOVE the traveling journal idea. when my gf and i lived in different cities in israel, we had a sketchbook and we’d trade off keeping it for a week at a time, and we’d draw cute pictures for each other. actually, now that we’re back in the usa we still live in different cities, so i’m not sure why we stopped doing this…but anyway the point is you are going to have SO MUCH FUN with the traveling journal. i’m excited for you.

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    Dear Writers of Autostraddle,

    Though I appreciate that, for the last year or so, you have been customizing your articles to be released at the precise moment in my life when I need them, you should start paying attention to the needs of your other readers. For instance, I know that Papi needs a DIY on making Dianna Agron iron-ons, so that she can customize all of her clothing and accessories.

    Sincerely,
    Kait

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    A couples tumblr definitely helps take the edge off of not being able to physically be with each other. My SO and I use one to share sexy couples photos we find, including captions about things we miss or want to do when we see each other next, or we post cute photos of couples being together and doing the things that we would be doing or just funny photos that we would normally share over Facebook but want to surprise the person with instead. It’s great because each one ends up feeling like a little gift from the other person, rather than just normal link swapping.

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    I live like 40 minutes from Muskegon, no joke! I could send you a postcard!

    My best friend (who lives in England) and I collect postcards from everywhere we go and send them to each other. It’s great getting that bulky envelope in the mail once a month!

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    We’ve had dance parties on ASS-chat. One of us would DJ to the rest of us, and we’d drink and dance in our chairs. (Me and softly invented the raptor dance, which involves ‘dancing’ like a T-rex while staying seated in our desk chairs.)

    Even more fun if one of the participants is in a public library and/or a timezone where it is 10 am.

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    I love this article.
    I have had dinner with friends, and made toasts with family for celebrations over skype.
    Sometimes it’s nice to buy two bottles of wine and have one sent to the other person, with an invitation to drink it with you over skype.

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    When me and my ex-girlfriend were doing long distance we used to make videos telling each other what we’d been up to and then singing along to Tegan and Sara songs, sometimes giving each other truth or dare assignments to complete in the next video. We would then upload these (privately!) onto youtube for the other person. It was always super exciting to receive a personalised video just for you and this way you get to see them, share things you love and feel happy. It also gives you something to think about when you’re missing them. Oh and sometimes we would read stuff we’d written or do book reviews, you can basically do whatever you want. It’s awesome!

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    For the past 2 years my friends from college have weekly TFTuesdays (Team Fortress 2) during the summer. Because keeping in touch with friends is always infinitely more fun when you are simultaneously exploding them with sentry guns!

    The best part is that TF2 is totally free now on Steam so everyone can join in on the fun!

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    Okay, leaving this comment midway through reading because I have A LOT OF FEELINGS~

    So I’m in a group called the Foxy Rainbow Ranger Mamas, right, we’re a bunch of Tumblr folk who met fighting a homophobe on Facebook…anyway! I actually set up a movie night for the 7 of us the other month because we live cities/countries/continents apart and it’s super easy to set up like.

    1. Actual invites with the info (like, send them in the post and everything, because letters are always fun)
    2. A theme/dress code. Smart casual, rainbow, even clothing that represents your OTP works, it helps for togetherness.
    3. THE FILM! If you all ‘get’ tech, I advise links to torrents if not everybody has the film on totally legal DVD discs or whatever and email them the links in advance of the letters.
    4. Obviously pick a date/time that works for everyone and set up a tinychat so you can see each others’ reactions/beautiful faces/themed outfits!

    So yeah, that was just my comment to say I’ve done that, it’s awesome and Whitney is so on the ball suggesting it in this brilliant post :)

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    A bit late, but have y’all heard of http://thearkhproject.tumblr.com/FAQ?

    “What is Arkh?

    Arkh is a grassroots project created not by a major company, or even an indie company, but by individual people who would like to see more representation for the underrepresented.

    The ultimate goal? To make a game that focuses on queer people and people of color as main characters, and beyond that, allow people who are tired of mainstream gaming to have something completely off the wall and step into a new role.”

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    So, I’m a year late to the party. But at any rate, my sister and I decided today to go shopping together – we picked a chain store, and then both went to shop at different locations, in our different cities. We video-chatted more or less the whole way.

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