Sunday, March 29

The Quad: What does maintaining a relationship over the summer mean in the Digital Age?

(Claire Sun/Daily Bruin)

Summer means something different for everyone: some Bruins continue hitting the books on campus, and others galavant across the globe.

For many Bruins summer means saying goodbye to people who used to live down the hall from. Over the extended period of time away, we can hope that we preserve our close knit connections over the summer with different forms of communication.

In 2019, there are lots of ways to stay in touch, whether it’s FaceTiming your parents to discuss all the “studying” you’re doing, calling a friend who’s 17 hours apart from you or eagerly messaging your significant other about how excited you are to see them again. When we’re so far apart, however, how will our relationships change even with the variety of options for staying connected?


Evolving Communications

As a school year ends, it is easy to tell a friend that you will call all the time and keep them updated – but sometimes life gets in the way.

Tim Groeling, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at UCLA, said in an email statement that social media has decreased the cost of keeping in touch. It keeps distant contacts at the front of our minds and at the same time makes it easier to respond and interact.

However, utilizing media might mean conversation and interaction can be readily maintained, but the ease in which the communication is upheld creates problems in itself.

In an article published by the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication, Texas Christian University professor Andrew Ledbetter explains communicating using technology changes the ways people maintain relationships. The article explained that there is a “passive browsing” approach to keeping up with interpersonal relationships – much like following a friend’s life recap on their finsta.

Elena Sternlicht, a third-year psychology student, said sometimes what friends choose to share over the internet is enough to keep them feeling connected. Frequently, Sternlicht saw bits and pieces of her friends’ adventures without the full rundown.

“I’m excited to see people’s pictures, but I know I’ll hear about it in two months. My friends are in Thailand and it looks so fun, but I’m not going to ask them to tell me every story,” Sternlicht said.

Groeling said that social media allows for relationships to be more easily maintained over time. For example, it’s easy to wish high school friends “happy birthday” even from afar.

“However, because things like likes or suggested birthday reminders make those things easier, they cheapen the interaction somewhat and might make the connections that are maintained shallower,” Groeling said in an email statement. “Research seems to have concluded that while people use social media tools to maintain larger ‘friend’ networks, they still only have a relatively small number of truly close friends to whom they feel they can turn in a time of crisis.”

Friends from Afar

Funny stories just aren’t the same over FaceTime without your roommate’s cackling or your boyfriend’s exaggerated hand gestures. During the summer, we may not be in close quarters with our pals, so we have to find a way to make it work.

Sternlicht said she prefers calling her close friends on the phone, though it’s not the same as in-person chats. However, Sternlicht stays up to date with social media.

“Communication is affected to an extent,” she said. “But with Instagram and other platforms you pretty much see what’s going on with people. I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on through social media or text. I’ll miss them, but I know I’ll see them soon.”

Sternlicht made a clear distinction between her first-year summer and her second-year summer, saying that her first-year-summer jitters of worrying about whether everyone would forget about her by the time she got back to school entirely changed to knowing that everyone just picks up where they left off when they get back.

Other students prefer to keep up to date using different platforms, such as group messaging. Akshay Anand, a third-year biology student, said that his main form of communication with friends is within their group chat.

“We talk enough to keep up but I think everyone enjoys doing their own thing with their friends from back home, which I totally respect.” Anand said.

Relationships Up Close

While the lovers in “The Notebook” write love letters to each other every day they are apart, this probably isn’t feasible for every real life relationship.

The New York Times explained that ‘quality moments’ (commonplace activities we share with each other) allow people to form connections. While our partners are thousands of miles away however, those everyday connections are scarce. One has to hope that brief laughs and exchanged stories over the phone are enough to get relationships through the season.

Anand keeps a positive outlook on his temporarily long-distance relationship by trying to appreciate the time that he and his girlfriend have to themselves.

“Our experiences are our own experiences,” he said. “I think that’s super cool when you have your lives together, but obviously your lives apart (are important) as well. I more than appreciate her doing her own thing and I love hearing about it.”

Anand also said that distance takes some adjusting, but that it is important to not take a partner’s busy schedule personally. He said that any unsettled feelings were communicated clearly because he knew that any hard feelings could be destructive while apart.

Alternatively, Sternlicht said she gets to drive up to see her boyfriend for a couple days now and then throughout the summer. She said that couples can fully appreciate their partners more after some time apart.

The Summer Always Ends

Summer adventures are drawing to a close, and soon we won’t have to just hear over the phone about how much better everything is in Europe.

Wherever friends are in the world, we have the communication technology to chat with and cheer on our fellow Bruins. These long-distance calls are certainly different than coffee shop chats, but the fact is that it is easier than ever before to connect with friends across the globe.

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