LDR: KEEPING UP WITH HUMAN CONNECTION ONLINE

As a millennial, from the time I hit adolescence up until present, my online self has always been active all over various social media platforms. I couldn’t help but cringe from the memory of the young awkward me having an account from long-gone social sites such as Friendster (am I the only one?), MySpace, Multiply, and even chat with everyone in Yahoo! Messenger and mIRC. Mindlessly, I would post any stuff about my life that fascinated me during that time, and uploaded unfiltered photos and ridiculously thought I was ‘cool’ to do them back then, even out of boredom.

With grown up me at the moment, I own active accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Gmail, yet now I have been wary and socially responsible on how I use them. With much appreciation for ALC708 unit, I had a deeper look at my virtual persona and reevaluated them… and figured out that my online behaviour have evolved into something more. Just as how I attempt to live my life, I have learnt to use my online persona and  engagement with intention. My use of social media has not only been generally about sharing news or funny viral videos on Facebook, to personally ranting in Twitter, or posting a #selfie or viewing stories in Instagram, but also primarily been because of — connectivity, explained by C Waite (2013, p. 16) as the dependency of an individual towards ‘virtual copresence’, specifically with the way in which I have maintained relationships online, in terms of being away from home.

From Manila to moving over here in Melbourne in less than a year independently, adjusting to a new ‘home’ and life in a foreign country has not been an easy journey. I used to have anxiety attacks and sleepless nights from missing everything and everybody (physically) in the Philippines. So, how was I able to cope up with homesickeness? What made it bearable? To me, social media has absolutely been an even more intrinsic part of my everyday life. My online engagement (off-campus) has been all about long-distance relationships (LDR) with family, friends, and others. In maintaining to do so — the stronger and deeper the connection, the better it is. Trust me, it takes heaps of patience and effort (plus an excellent wifi connection!) to do so.

By taking an active role in social media, below is a bit of overview of how I kept up with my journey alone and LDR life:

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Screenshot image via Angel Dolor’s Facebook profile.

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Tweets embedded from Twitter profile @angldlr.

A very special thanks to the digital era of advanced technology. If not for social media, all these wouldn’t be possible and I would have gotten out of my mind at this point.

Some (well, majority now) days, when I get busy with my day-time job, studying, completing uni assessments, exploring new places, and being a nap queen, I tend to feel disconnected towards my long-distance relationships too. Of course it hasn’t been a perfect one as it cannot be monitored all the time, and ‘instant updates’ from loved ones doesn’t always come on-the-spot. Yet given so, I make sure to consistently take an active role with my online engagement at the start or end of day at the very least. I am continuously working towards better ways to deal with being good at LDR online engagement, and it hasn’t been easy either! This is an important aspect of my personal online self that I deal with best through learning by doing, just like actively-engaging online through tweeting or writing a blog post. (Brown 2016) Hence, let me share with you all a number of ways I have learned on how to effectively deal with  it through a short Prezi video.

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Screenshot via Prezi

5 ways to maintain an active role in LDR: with Prezi By Angel Dolor, 9 April 2017

Hope this would greatly help anyone who needs it! In summary, I enumerated it as follows:

Ways to maintain an active role in LDR:

  1. COMMUNICATE WELL –  Keep them up to date with what’s going on with your life. Talk about plans, problems, celebrations, and more! Overshare if you want too. It’s a two-way relationship, so learn to also listen. And remember, honesty is the best policy.
  2. ADD VIDEO – Impromptu or scheduled, make time for Facetime, Messenger Video, Skype, Viber or whichever video call works for you!
  3. PLAN A SURPISE – Make an extra effort to do something unexpected! Give flowers, write letters, or book that plane ticket.
  4.  MAKE PERSONAL TIME – Make sure to enjoy your own life as it is! It is highly important to have have some Me Time as well.
  5. KEEP POSITIVE – No matter how busy, outdated, or hard times may get, always be willing to learn to keep up with whatever happens.

Honestly, I still find myself in awe on how strong and resilient I have been throughout the months that have passed, especially with how much growth I gained through coping up with the virtual LDR life. It’s not the craziest nor the worst thing to imagine, between Snapchats, Skype, and Viber calls — sometimes it even feels like I am more in touch with my cross-country best girlfriends than actual flatmates or brunch pals. Amazingly, I have grown to be very patient (I really used to be short-tempered.) and through a little research, I learned that it does have some perks, and positive benefits or impact on an individual. Findings supported by a 2013 study published in the Journal of Communication, discovered that long distance relationships actually include less anxiety (say goodbye to fighting over who left the seat up or getting pissed about someone showing up 20 minutes late). (Shape 2015, para. 7). Secondly, a recent study from the Pew Research Center reported that nearly a quarter of all relationships have an online element that keeps things going, but it is very important in an LDR to help your relationship, not hurt the people involved in it. Lastly, don’t you think that absence really makes the heart grow fonder? I certainly believe so, if you keep maintaining an active role in it.

To all the people out there who can virtually relate to this blog about keeping up with LDR online engagement, just hang in there, mate. Keep calm, and consistently focus on what you would like to happen without being controlled by constant difficulties brought about by distance. Instead, use online human connection to continue spreading the love, concern, and kindness around like confetti. After all, everything we convey and say in the virtual online world will always and forever be there (and in our hearts), NO matter where are and where we’ll go. Best of luck! If I can do it, you can too. And to all those who have kept an LDR for a long-term, kudos to you!

(Word count: 1196 not including citations or captions)

References:

Brown A, 2016, ‘Multiple Me(s): Thinking Through Myself Online’, Exploring Digital Zones, WordPress, 11 March, retrieved on 09 April 2017, <https://adamgbrown.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/multiple-mes-thinking-through-my-online-self/&gt;.

Mckenzie M, 2015, 6 Ways a Long Distance Relationship Makes You More In Love, Shape, retrieved 09 April 2017, <http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/sex-and-love/6-ways-long-distance-relationship-makes-you-more-love&gt;.

Smith A & Duggan M 2013, The Broader Online Environment around Dating and Relationships, Pew Research Center, retrieved 09 April 2017, <http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/10/21/part-3-the-broader-online-environment-around-dating-and-relationships/&gt;.

Waisbord S, 2015, ‘Journal of Communication’, Wiley Online Library, vol. 66., retrieved 09 April 2017, <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291460-2466&gt;.

Waite C, 2013, The Digital Evolution of an American Identity, Routledge, New York.

My broader ALC708-related online activity:

Through this unit, I decided to willingly quit my ‘social media hiatus’, through accepting and owning my online identity more creatively and responsibly. I actively have an increased online engagement not just with social activity, but knowing further implications of my online activities. I certainly went outside my comfort zone with the following:

  • Made About.Me profile, in the online discussion forum
  • WordPress account, which would later on be helpful in making it a personal blog
  • A group Periscope video made in the campus with classmates
  • Liking, commenting, and sharing relevant content & actively engaging with peers via Twitter from #ALC708 hashtag and weekly Tiffit challenges