“I don’t write letters anymore, I send emails. I don’t even have actual pictures anymore, just jpeg files. I barely use the phone to talk, I just send a text. I have friends who live ten minutes away but I haven’t actually seen with my eyes in months, just because it’s easier to spare a few moments at the keyboard than schedule an actual face-to-face encounter,” wrote Hybrid Mom blogger Megan Schwartz last month.
Megan is one of the almost 60 percent of women who described their friendships as “We mostly keep in touch via the Internet: Facebook, emails, etc., when we have a few spare minutes to write one another” when polled last week on our site.
Clearly, the state of friendships is evolving—and most likely not more the better. A 2009 University of Michigan study revealed that having face-to-face contact with a friend can be beneficial—and even healthy: feeling emotionally close to a friend increases levels of the hormone progesterone, helping to boost well-being and reduce anxiety and stress.
One of the researchers noted that “it’s important to find the links between biological mechanisms and human social behavior … these links may help us understand why people in close relationships are happier, healthier, and live longer than those who are socially isolated.”
We’re not saying connecting via Facebook, IM, or email is the equivalent to being “socially isolated,” but it really is different. And in addition to the form of communication, the fragmented manner in which information is passed—three minutes here, five minutes there—doesn’t make for true connections.
Megan goes on to say: “This morning at a coffee shop I saw two women sitting together at the same table with matching scones and lattes, only they weren’t actually at the same table. Each was in her own little world, holding up a cell phone and typing to someone else. It makes me wonder what part of the troubles today come from people just not being able to talk anymore, with voices and inflection and facial expressions and body language.”
So, how can we turn things around? Here, tips to keep up with your friends and maintain those very important bonds.
Don’t be flexible. Jeanann, a New York editor, has a fully packed life. She balances a fulltime workload with an equally rewarding home life with her husband and four-year-old daughter. Jeanann finds the time to reconnect with a high school friend by being anything but flexible.
“We make a point of meeting annually with our families half between our homes,” she explains. “It’s understood that we will get together every July—whether bad weather or busy schedules—so there’s no chance of cancellation.”
Work out a deal. Friendship is important for everyone—you get something from these people that you can’t from your spouse or your family members. Think of it as a therapy session—if it means you can get some support from your partner. Deanna, a stay-at-home mom to two boys, feels it’s just as important for her husband to socialize, too.
“I’ve committed to hanging out with friends twice a month,” she says. “My husband is very supportive, and he doesn’t make me feel guilty for it. In turn, I support and encourage him to see his friends, too.”
Make a “next contact date.” Once you finally get together, don’t leave without setting a date for your next girls’ night. “It’s so easy to walk away from dinner and drinks saying, ‘okay, let’s definitely get together again soon! It’s been too long!’” says freelance film producer Kelly. “No. Instead, come with your calendar and set the date right then.”
Okay, ladies: with these tips in mind, hopefully you’re now prepared to step away from the keyboard, get on the phone, and schedule some outings. Remember, it’s good for you.
Originally published on HybridMom.com