An illustration of two women sitting on arm chairs with cups of tea. The woman on the left has blonde hair and glasses, and is dressed in blue clothing. The woman on the right is wearing a black dungaree dress over a red polo-neck. She has black hair with red dip-dye and glasses
Credit: Ciara McAlinden

Lifestyle Listens

By Katherine Prentice and Genevieve Brown

Katherine and Genevieve are The Glasgow Guardian’s new agony aunts!

I lost a lot of friends during the year because I haven’t been able to keep up with people online. I really miss my friends, but I don’t know how to get better at replying to messages and I feel like I’m always behind with people. How do I get better at it? – Claudia 

Katherine: I understand this, as someone who is pretty useless at keeping on top of messages, and who really hates the phone and zoom, it can seem to be a chore just to maintain friendships with people who I usually love speaking to. We aren’t meant to have our friendships be based with people online, and there is such a difference with seeing people in person, and it becomes draining at a certain point to keep doing everything online. If possible, organise to meet up and catch up, people will always be happy to do this, and you might be surprised by the enthusiasm. If you can’t,  I suggest setting aside time specifically to have a proper conversation, whether through messages, zoom, discord or facebook. I find discord easiest – it is so much less formal, you can play silly games and listen to music, and just pop in when you feel like it. But use whatever platform works for you and your friends, you don’t need to get high tech, maybe a phone call. I also find going for a walk and having a chat on the phone can be the next best thing when you can’t see someone in person. It helps to be doing something, away from the distractions of your laptop or TV, and you can get so much more engaged in the conversation. Just remember, you can’t be expected to be available 24/7, and having disjointed conversations over text is exhausting, so just try and suggest setting aside that time virtually or in person to have an actual catch up. Equally, don’t put pressure on yourself to do more than you can do, and always remember that communication is a two way street; if they aren’t making any effort it shouldn’t all fall on you. Everyone has been in the same boat this past year, and I’m sure they will be keen to hear from you, but just keep in mind how much pressure you put on yourself versus how much you expect from them.

Genevieve: In my experience people find it much easier to pick up where they left off, friendship-wise, than to change their relationship with a person who hasn’t done anything wrong. For this reason I highly doubt that you’ve lost the friends you think you’ve lost. It is hard to keep up digital contact when it is the least rewarding form of contact – there’s a reason all those scientific studies say that social media makes people miserable! Everyone has recently experienced loss as well. All of us have lost face-to-face experiences and many of us have lost loved ones. With this in mind, I have found people are very understanding when it comes to people dropping off the radar recently. As for getting better at replying, I think you should find your own rhythm. If everyone knows you take two days to reply, they won’t be surprised when that happens. Don’t force yourself to reply instantly unless you enjoy it (or if it’s urgent of course!). If you’re really struggling, it can be good to give yourself a set hour, or however long you need, to sit and respond to messages. You could do this daily at 7pm, for example, or weekly if you are someone who tends to text less frequently or keeps a smaller circle of friends. I am also a huge advocate of phone calls, even as I struggle to take my own advice! They aren’t as intense as a Zoom but feel much more engaging than sending messages. Even if it seems strange at first to schedule a time to chat on the phone, I credit phone calls with maintaining all of my long-distance friendships over lockdown. My final piece of advice is don’t spend ages drafting messages or emails, you should just fire them off! I learned this when I realised that you can always correct any mistakes afterwards – no one will mind!

I think I love my best friend but they have told me they view me like a sibling. Is it worth telling them or should I try and be mature about it and get over those feelings? – Rem 

Katherine: This is a tough one, because it is difficult if they think of you as a sibling – that is a very different dynamic from a romantic one, and one that might be tricky for them to move past. But to be clear, it isn’t an issue of maturity either. It might change the relationship for a while if you tell them, but I think if you are very close friends it is something you could overcome. And telling them may give you better closure one way or another, and prevent you from dwelling on all the maybes and what-ifs. Try and balance it by considering how much you will regret it in the future if you do or don’t tell them. Maybe knowing how you feel could even open their eyes to what could be, but sadly I wouldn’t necessarily count on it, you can’t force feelings where there aren’t any of that kind.

On the other hand, if you feel like you can move past the feelings without telling them, and this seems most reasonable to you, then by all means do. Not because this is the right or mature way to handle it (there is no right way) but if you feel like this is possible for you, it may be the simplest method. It sounds as though you have a very close relationship, and so on your end I would consider if what you have now is enough for you when deciding what to do. It can be confusing to know where the line is drawn in situations like this, but maybe you will feel content and happy with the platonic love you have in the end.  

Genevieve: I think there are a few factors to consider with this one. Do you fall in love quite easily, with some regularity? If so, could this be a lockdown-induced boredom-crush? On the other hand, prolonged isolation and time to think can clarify for us who we do actually feel for, and this can be unexpected.  It seems more likely, however, that you do have strong feelings for this person if you are debating changing a friendship that means so much to you just to get an answer. There are people in my past who I regret not asking if they felt the same way, and instead I pined in secret, and now I will never know if it could have led to something. My advice to my past self is the same as the advice I give you now: tell them! If you have a strong friendship, as I’m sure you do, it will be able to withstand this with only temporary weirdness. I don’t think a sibling comparison is anything to worry about unless it is a direct response to a confession of romantic feelings! It could actually be intended as an expression of closeness. I will say though, that this is a very emotionally painful situation to be in, and I wish you the best of luck with it! Fingers crossed!

Got a question you’d like Katherine or Genevieve to answer? Submit it here.


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