For many of us reconnecting with a lost relationship or maintaining a relationship with someone who is difficult to connect with is as easy as placing a phone call, sending an email, or even video-conferencing online. For others, it is not so clear cut and it may appear to be a daunting and intimidating venture especially if you are not in touch with the person on a day-to-day basis. There are many reasons people fall out of touch with their friends and loved ones. These reasons range from irreconcilable differences to disappointments or a failure of these people to meet expectations. Some of the expectations for staying in contact with others may also appear reasonable at first, a given for relationships we have with with friends, a parent or sibling, but are they? Is it reasonable to expect the same closeness with absent connection as you might have with a someone who lives in your town or city? If not what are some of the challenges staying in contact with someone who doesn't live in the same town? Similarly, what makes a relationship worth investing in over a distance? The values that we maintain color our answers to these important questions.
There are so many things that can affect children, families and parental relationships, many of which are outside of our control. These can range from past history these individuals have experienced at the hand of caregivers, economic realities such as having to travel elsewhere for work, fears of inadequacy, and or an inability to meet the demands of these expectations. Sometimes life just moves our friends and loved ones away from us because that’s the way life is for many. Work, play and new adult relationships and commitments may take our friends and loved ones far from us. Sure, technology makes it easier to see into their lives. And it may appear easier to keep up with what is going on in our loved ones lives through social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or video conferencing on Skype. But do these social media tools really help or do they hinder our connections with friends and family who are no longer physically present? I suppose this has to do with how motivated or committed people are to maintaining a connection with you online using such tools. Do these tools help to compensate for the lack of visceral and physical time that is spent with someone by living in the same area or is it inadequate?
It appears that healthy self-love necessitates that we remain conscious of our personal relationships that bring positive energy, insight and the sense of connection we long for as human beings. We are unique creatures in that we have the ability to choose our relationships, choose the amount of time and energy that we give to these relationships over a given time. So how much time and energy can one commit to loving friends and loved ones when they physically move away from us? I believe this involves a conscious decision to maintain space and time to nurture the relationship for those people who are absent as one would attend such a relationship if they were in the same town. There are a lot of tools that can empower us to be involved with our loved ones if we choose to span the distance. All significant relationships, it’s important to remember, involve time and effort. It’s tempting to think of these online relationships in a way such a way that they are not “real”, and to layer or attend many of them in a shallow manner by having many online relation/friendships. However, if you want to have a more in-depth relationship rather than one involving shallow banter and a few minutes of your time, it will be important to invest more time and energy, and block off specific time, as you would if you invited someone over for tea. This may be time that you block off to spend face-to-face time using video-conferencing platforms such as Skype. Similarly one could use such time to use multiple forms of communication such as writing email communications, texts and phone calls to stay connected. (At some point your loved one WILL need a hug from you.)
If we want to stay in touch and have a reasonable grasp of what is going on in one another's life we will need to adjust the frames of reference with which we engage our significant others online. By changing the way we view intimacy one may still maintain close relationships with those who are no longer physically able or present for periods of time. Many can attest to the mental and emotional connection that can be nurtured by such a connection.
Another advantage of online connection is that people can address topics of interests and broach discussions of greater or lesser intensity modulating and setting different boundaries in relationships using technology through emails when the risk of being face- to-face may be too great. This too can have the opposite effect of being unable to respond to a person in a whole manner, seeing the context of their body language, etc. However, this is sometimes necessary as it may allow for opportunities for more progressive and gradual reintroduction to relationships and/or a means to set a new pace and intensity when redefining relationships. In the rapid pace of our twentieth century lifestyle our technological advances permit us to span the distance. However, we still need to be mindful that in spite of these advances the same care and attention, dedication and commitment is required to maintain connections in relationships which span distances to make them meaningful and lasting. Such relationships require a commitment by all parties involved.