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I'm losing friendships because of the pandemic. What can I do?

"I am starting to think some friendships can't be strengthened by a monthly Zoom date."
Illustration of a woman looking sad in front of a ripped photo of a group of women
"I miss getting to hang out inside our homes together and dipping chips into the same container of guac. Will we ever do that again?"TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TMRW

Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at tmrwadvice@nbcuni.com.

Hi Caroline,

I feel like I am losing a lot of my closest friendships and relationships to the space the pandemic has created. I know there are lots of remedies for this, but I am starting to think some friendships can't be strengthened by a monthly Zoom date. I just need some words of solidarity, and not necessarily advice.

Love,

I Miss My Friends

Dear Friends,

I’m glad you want solidarity and not advice because, honestly, I don’t have much to share here. It sucks! I miss my friends, too. I miss getting to hang out inside our homes together and dipping chips into the same container of guac. Will we ever do that again?

I think a lot of people feel this way. Just last week, Amanda Mull at The Atlantic wrote about the exact phenomenon you are talking about here.

Mull writes: “I thought frequently of other people I had missed without fully realizing it. Pretty good friends with whom I had mostly done things that were no longer possible, such as trying new restaurants together. Co-workers I didn’t know well but chatted with in the communal kitchen. Workers at the local coffee or sandwich shops who could no longer dawdle to chat. The depth and intensity of these relationships varied greatly, but these people were all, in some capacity, my friends, and there was also no substitute for them during the pandemic. Tools like Zoom and FaceTime, useful for maintaining closer relationships, couldn’t re-create the ease of social serendipity, or bring back the activities that bound us together.”

I’m with you. Zoom was fun for a bit but now it’s really not — especially when the parties on either end have no new experiences to bring to the table. How can we grow as friends when we can’t grow as people? We just say, “How are you, really?” back and forth into a computer camera until we hang up. It was a great alternative to an IRL hang back in the spring but no one really thought we’d still be doing it a full year later. I mean, we were talking about Zoom fatigue in April 2020. It’s nearly March 2021.

You’re not alone. Your friends miss you, too. No one wants to Zoom. Everyone wants to hug each other. No one is hanging out without you.

About a week ago, I wore two masks and met up in a dog park 6 feet away from two friends I hadn’t seen since last winter while our dogs ran around. It felt normal at first to chat, but after 90 minutes, all of us openly said how exhausted we were and how much we just wanted to go home. When I got home that afternoon, I had a headache and I took a nap, which is something I never do. The next day I felt like I had a hangover. I texted my friends to see if they felt the same. They did. We laughed ... well, we typed “lol” into the text box, but I suspect none of us were actually laughing. Truthfully, I was really alarmed at my mental and physical exhaustion after something I did easily in the “Before Times.”

We will all emerge from this pandemic really, really weird. We are all going to have to relearn how to be a person in the world. You, me and everyone in between.

So, yeah, there's no advice and no easy fix. But we are all in this boat (or rather, separate boats, socially distanced) together.

In solidarity,

Caroline

Have a question for Caroline? Email us at tmrwadvice@nbcuni.com.