For the last several years I've been consistently thankful for technology. Not for entertainment or convenience's sake, or even for how it has helped daily productivity. No, as helpful as those things are, the main reason I'm thankful for living in the modern era is the ease of mass communication. Specifically, because I'm in a long distance relationship...
Nothing can replicate being in the presence of that special someone. However, with enough work, patience, and a little technology, I've been able to sustain a relationship despite the distance between myself and my partner. Technology has made things more interesting and interactive beyond phones or letters, so making lemonade from lemons, here are several ways my partner and I have been able to stay "connected":
Xbox Live It's not easy to replace the act of dating in a virtual, long distance relationship. People get to know one another and grow a relationship by sharing the same scenery, experiencing the same things together, and discussing these activities afterward. But for a growing amount of couples living apart, especially amongst the younger gaming set, options like Xbox Live+headsets can offer a virtual "date" of sorts. Create avatars for you and your partner, a couple can dive into a variety of games and enjoy them together or competitively. Or in our case, we like to watch movies simultaneously in real time with Xbox Live Party, so we can go out on that "movie date" despite being miles apart.
Second Life Living in two separate locations is the problem. The solution: create a new world just for two. Second Life is a popular 'game' where players create an avatar and exist in a world however they please. Unlike Xbox Live, this is an online game which is slightly closer to a more social environment, with more realistic looking with exacting controls and customization. Create a personal space, interact with others and spruce up old fashioned messaging by adding grand visuals. Second Life has matured beyond a game and into turned in a vibrant social world that feels like an alternate reality, giving long distance partners an option for visual interaction, albeit a virtual one.
Formspring When you're living apart, it's all too easy to forget or lose plans. Formspring is a social planning option focusing on asking/answering questions and can be addressed at any time. We like using Formspring as playful way to discover things about one another via 20 Questions with a digital twist. The ongoing online back and forth interaction isn't as personal as a conversation, but in some ways it can be more revealing since people can give answers some thought before putting them down on the screen.
Internet Radio There are moments when conversation halts and becomes a bit trying, so when conversation dies down, we like to reignite interaction via music. Discussing music we love, hate, dance to, react to, music reveals who we are in many ways we don't even realize, but your partner may notice. We like to listen to internet radio stations simultaneously sharing the music we like and dislike; our favourites are: iTunes, TuneIn Radio, Pandora, Spotify and Live365.
Twitter Personal blogs live on, but micro-blogging via Twitter is an easier way for romantic partners to send quick notes and updates of each others's lives as they happen without having to sit in front of a computer and churn out a longer update post. Create an account just for that one person and vice versa, and you've got your own semi-private chat network. Between chats, e-mails and texts, a lot happens that might not be important enough to speak directly outward, but Twitter allows us to have communication of a very conversational nature.
Synch Tube Tired of watching YouTube videos, sending links and constantly asking if your partner watched it yet? Synch Tube creates a chat room (for 2 or more people) where a single YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Livestream or Ustream video is played for all parties in real time. We love how evenings by the glow of the computer screen are more lively when riding the same wavelength rather than web browsing by ourselves with a chat bubble popping up occasionally. The service is slightly similar to XBox Live Party where a movie can be simultaneously viewed, but is specifically designed for the shorter format of YouTube.
Google Calendar Having a unified calendar in the cloud complete with events, appointments, free days and the like can make planning for visits much easier. Especially when it comes to being unpredictable and organizing surprises, traveling together, or other shared plans. Gradually the calendar can become somewhat of a reference guide to what each party considers worth celebrating or memorable. Whether it's religious dates, family affairs, or cornerstones in the relationship, we like sharing a Google Calendar to bring our plans together.
Screen Sharing Applications Using the screen sharing apps, it's possible to share what you are doing on your computer with a second party. If you're tech support for your partner, this is an excellent way to help answer computer questions or work together on projects. Common screen sharing solutions include, Skype, Join.me and Twiddla, alongside the built-in OS X Remote Desktop option. Sharing is caring!
Dropbox In ages past, sending large files was a hit and miss affair via e-mail or would take forever via instant messaging. But now with cloud storage options, all I have to do is place files of songs, photos, movies or whatever I'd like to share with my partner in our shared Dropbox. It's possible to share raw photos from my DSLR without loss of quality or having to encode or convert them. Dropbox creates an almost seamless link between our computers, proving to be the second best thing to working in the same room together.