Living Far Away From Close Friends and Loved Ones

When I moved to California two and a half years ago, I left behind my parents and a lot of my closest friends. It was the toughest physical move I’ve ever had to make, because I left a robust support network to live in a city where I knew I’d struggle to make new friends. The first year was incredibly rough, I felt vulnerable and desperate to meet people. Yet, since I moved from NYC with my boyfriend at the time, I spent a lot of time with him and didn’t make as strong of an effort as I could have to make new friends. So some of the struggle could have been alleviated had I made more of an effort. But…

Flash-forward to 2.5 years of living in LA, and I feel much more contented and happy in my support network here. Having a weekly writer’s group has really helped with that, as well as meeting new people through the UCLA connections I’ve made from graduate school.

However, my closest friends are still my friends from home. And I miss them. A lot. Sometimes I don’t even realize just how much I miss them until I re-connect with one of them. For instance, I just spent an hour and a half on the phone with one of my closest friends from high school, and it felt like my heart battery was charged up again.

The more I come to face the reality that I may be in LA for quite a long time, the more I want to find ways to keep close to my old friends. And I read a startling fact about close friendships and face-to-face time that made me want to buy a plane ticket home to NYC stat.

In the book The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier written by Susan Pinker, she writes:

In a study of the effect of Internet use on social relationships in adults aged eighteen to sixty-three, Dutch psychologist Thomas Pollet found that time spent using online social networks resulted in more online contacts but didn’t translate into genuine offline connections or a feeling of closeness. Indeed, not only is online contact experienced as less fun, but without face-to-face contact, social relationships decay and are soon replaced by others… “Emotional closeness declines by around 15 percent a year in the absence of face-to-face contact, so that in five years someone can go from being an intimate acquaintance to the most distant outer layer of your 150 friends,” says Dunbar.

Isn’t it crazy to hear that emotional closeness decreases by 15% every year you don’t see your friends face-to-face? When I heard the data quantified like that, it really shook me up. Would it change the way you travel? Because for me, it makes me want to schedule more girls weekends with my friends out of town, and make sure I have a solid two-week trip home to NYC planned at least once a year. I never want to decline 15% each year in closeness with my best buds.

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