On Campus

Distance doesn’t have to be a deal breaker

Technology is making geographical distance less of a threat to relationships for students

Social networking sites and programs such as Facebook or Skype are often seen as time-wasters for students looking to be distracted from their studies. But for students in long distance relationships or with friends far from home, these technologies can be relationship lifesavers.

A recent article in the New York Times showcased the value of these modes of communication for students trying to make long distance love last. While going to a different college than your beau or deciding to study abroad used to signal the end of most relationships, students told the New York Times that the myriad of ways they can keep in touch, such as Skype, texting, and Facebook, in the modern world makes distance seem like not as much of an obstacle.

“I don’t know if we would be together without Skype,” Lisa Hoeynck, a University of Notre Dame junior who’s been with her boyfriend who attends St. Louis University for over three years, told the New York Times. “Seeing his face makes our relationship even stronger.”

There are some pitfalls to this dynamic, however. A text message or image only provides a peek into someone’s life periodically, and misread messages, or posts on Facebook, can lead to jealousy or misunderstanding.

“Most people aren’t great at giving feedback through words, especially 19-year-old college boys,” Suki Montgomery Hall, assistant director and psychologist in the Counseling and Wellness Center at Ithaca College, said in the New York Times. “All that data is creating some very anxious college students and a lot of fighting between partners.”

I’ve never been in a long distance relationship, but I am pretty familiar with how messaging systems like Skype or Gmail messenger have helped me keep some of my long distance friendships from falling apart. It may seem trivial, but a long chat on Gmail or a post on Facebook means a lot when you can’t see the person everyday.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t had my share of frustration with this dynamic. When these programs malfunction in the middle of a good conversation, it can be a real buzz kill. While trying to talk to my friend Jonn via Skype this past week, the sound cut out repeatedly, making it increasingly difficult to tell each other about our week. Although it was kind of funny to watch each other tap our computer screens and mouth “I can’t hear you” at each other, it highlighted the physical distance between us and made me wish that he were at my apartment in Winnipeg, rather than on my computer screen.

That being said, I do love the fact that I’m able to talk to friends in Edmonton or Toronto from home without having to foot a huge telephone bill or wait for a letter in the mail like my parents probably would have had to if they were in my shoes. It’s allowed me to stay close with friends that, honestly, would have probably drifted away otherwise because of distance and our hectic schedules. Technological glitches may be frustrating, but they seem like a reasonable compromise for maintaining a connection with someone you care about.

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