As cities and states begin to reopen public places, I think about the ways we’ve learned to be there for each other in the past few months. And I worry about what will happen if we let ourselves forget how we supported each other even when we couldn’t be physically together. Now that physical distance is becoming less of an obstacle, will we still hold space for each other in the same way?

I’ve spent pretty much my whole life being friends with people I could never actually see in person, a true testament to queer adolescence. For that reason, I’ve also been active online my entire life — maintaining my friendships in the digital space feels like second nature. So seeing and hearing many of my close friends insist that our digital friendships feel less real or meaningful has been a bit of a culture shock.

Regardless, this season has pushed us to find new ways to sustain our friendships, and although we may soon be able to see each other in person, we should still hold these new practices close. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to say “I love you” that I don’t plan on leaving behind any time soon:

  1. Making playlists! I know it doesn’t hit the same as a physical mixtape or CD, but there’s something really beautiful about making playlists for the people you love. It doesn’t have to be a full playlist, either. You can just send a song that reminds you of them!
  1. Zoom movie nights! Now that we can all watch movies together while miles apart, why stop? It makes these shared experiences and moments so much more accessible.
  1. Memes. Need I say more?
  1. Sending pocket change through the universe and through the digital airwaves. You’ve never randomly decided to send a friend a few dollars just for existing? I think it’s pretty rad. It’s a way of saying “Here, a coffee or snack on me!”
  1. Long video calls, little talking. Sometimes there is nothing to talk about. Sometimes you just need to be in someone’s presence — just to exist, simultaneously, in the same (digital) space. Maybe put on a few jams if the silence is uncomfortable.
  1. Sending mail! Throw in a few small gifts along with a handwritten letter. I’ve sent and received seed packets, stickers, origami cranes and small watercolor paintings. Anything to be held, anything that can fit in an envelope. Pieces of each other that we can hold onto.