Sophie and I have been friends since we were about 5 years old. Whereas I grew up in Rome, she grew up in a small-town west of London called Bourne End, where part of my family also lives. She was the neighbour of my aunt, but I have always considered her my cousin: we would spend months at a time at each other’s houses during the summer (mostly hers), Christmas and New Year’s together and we would try, even before instant and free messaging, to keep in contact during the months apart.
Seeing as we only saw each other during the holidays, I always imagined showing her around my daily life and showing her off to my friends. At the beginning, upon our mothers’ suggestion, we became pen friends: our letter would contain every miniscule detail of what classes were like in our respective schools, what we did during our lunch break, how many times a week we did sports and music class, who our latest crush was, what friend we had fallen out with, and so on. We would sometimes send each other small gifts in the envelope as well.
Around the age of 14, at the height of our Youtuber obsession, we decided to try and actually show each other what our lives were like: we embarked in vlogging. Many Youtubers at the time were doing “Vlogmas”, which is a series of daily vlogs in the days from the 1st to the 24th of December. Seeing as we would usually meet on the 21st or 22nd because of the holidays, so our daily vlogs only continued until then.
I remember marching around my high school with my mobile phone, showing her my friends, my courtyard, trying to vlog during my dance and singing classes, and taking short videos while I was on the bus in the morning.
Ever since I’ve moved to the Netherlands, this practice has gotten extremely difficult because of my final exams getting in the way of my Youtube career and because of me getting increasingly embarrassed to walk up to my friends and screaming “SAY HI TO SOPHIE!!”. So we have just resorted to talking about it, not doing it, keeping more in touch during the Christmas season and making plans in advance for the holidays. Now of course, many of my loved ones live in different countries, so this sort of relationship is no longer an exception.
My sister, my best friend from high school, my mum and of course Sophie: what exactly do these relationships consist of, now that we have tools to speak to them regularly for free, to be updated on their social life, to ask them anything that pops into our mind at any time of the day? Are Sophie and I closer because we speak most days or further away because we no longer vlog or send each other long letters with gifts in them?
I think whatever the answer, we are all adapting to this format, we are all travelling to the farthest corners of the world and living abroad for months at a time, with the comforting certainty that our loved ones are only a quick Whatsapp message away and that flights home are getting cheaper and cheaper.
Even if I compare my experience to my sister’s, who began living abroad in 2008 and certainly not the 1930s, I still think of when we used to have to set up a “Skype date”, where we had to simultaneously be online, and the video image contained about 3 pixels.
Now I send my far-away friends any meme, link, article, video, photo of food, voice recording with 10 minutes of compressed gossip to catch up and more. And even though it is less personal, I am forever thankful to live in an era where this is possible.