The prosecution: Martha
Since moving overseas, Niamh has got even more scatty and keeps missing our planned calls
My best mate Niamh moved abroad a while ago and has become terrible at staying in touch. It’s starting to affect our friendship. We met at university and have known each other for almost 12 years. Before she moved, we lived in the same city and saw each other regularly, almost every weekend.
I’ve always joked that she’s a bit scatty, the sort of person who is late for everything and often loses things, and she knows that. That’s just Niamh. But now she’s abroad she struggles to stick to scheduled calls.
The other week, a few friends and I arranged a big Zoom call for the birthday of a mutual friend who also lives abroad. Everyone had been notified of it weeks before. But Niamh forgot and didn’t join the call until it was almost over. She missed the games and the happy birthday song. She claimed that she’d got confused with the time zones, but she had been abroad almost eight months by that point. I think that’s a poor excuse.
She has messed up a few of our calls too, and we don’t speak as much as we used to. I’ve lost track of the number of times we have made a plan to speak at a certain time and she is 30 minutes late – or just doesn’t appear at all.
Often I’m left waiting, or she only comes online after I’ve messaged her on Zoom, Facebook, WhatsApp and email. And when she is on the phone, there’s a chance she will disappear mid-call. Once I was in the middle of a rant about my boss and the phone suddenly went dead. She didn’t try to ring back. The next day I asked what happened and she blamed her internet VPN, but she could have sent a text.
Maybe it’s teething problems because we’re getting used to being in different countries, but I do find myself losing patience. Niamh suggested sending each other voice notes, but it’s harder to keep track of updates that way. You send a few, the other person sends a few a week later, and by that point you’ve forgetten what you originally said.
Also where does it end? Do you voicenote forever? I prefer the immediacy and clarity of calling.
The defence: Niamh
I’m several time zones away, so it’s easy to get a bit lost. Martha should stop being so touchy
I don’t think I’m quite as bad as Martha is making out. I’m very active when it comes to messaging people on WhatsApp – and I even arranged for some flowers to be sent to Martha on her birthday.
I just sometimes get a bit lost in all these diarised calls, especially now that we are a few hours apart. I really value Martha’s friendship but we are living very different lives now, thousands of miles away from each other. I think it’s only natural that we don’t speak as much.
WhatsApp calls are banned where I live, and that’s how everyone calls each other in the UK. So naturally, we have to make some changes to how we communicate. The time I missed our friend’s Zoom wasn’t that big a deal – I made it for the last five minutes. And it only happened because I’d only recently moved and was still adjusting to the time difference.
I also think Martha and I have different personalities. She will remember all the times I was late to a planned call, but not all the times I have reached out to her to arrange a call myself.
If I’ve forgotten a call, Martha will message me on about five different platforms until she gets a response and then, when she is on the phone, she will be in a huff for about five minutes, telling me that my time isn’t more important than hers. I agree of course, but I’ll only have made a simple mistake. The time she was offloading to me about her job and my phone cut out due to my VPN, she was annoyed at me for a week afterwards. I think that’s a bit over the top.
We are too old to be having petty arguments, especially as we don’t see each other in person. If I miss a call or I’m late to a Zoom, I will apologise and then I want to move on. Life is too short.
I can try and be more organised but I think Martha and I should send each other voice notes more to alleviate the stress of booking calls. It seems easier and more flexible. That way we can stay in touch without the pressure.
The jury of Guardian readers
Should Niamh get her act together about keeping in touch?
Niamh doesn’t seem as involved in this friendship as Martha: she should put in more effort. They could both use calendar invites that reflect time zones and apps supported in both countries. But Martha needs to decide whether it is worth trying to save this friendship.Olivia, 24
We can’t keep our friends in cages. Niamh is in a different time zone and culture. It’s not fair to guilt-trip her. Martha’s badgering will drive a wedge between them. Be understanding, Martha, and embrace Niamh’s suggestion of voice notes.Clare, 65
It is not so straightforward for Niamh to maintain the same level of contact. This is a fact of life to which Martha is going to have to adjust. Pete, 69
Martha wants the old Niamh of their university days, but she needs to see that Niamh has moved abroad and perhaps moved on. There’s no point giving her timetabled Zoom calls: Martha will only be more frustrated and disappointed when Niamh misses them. Friendships come and go. Perhaps it’s time for Martha to let this one fade?David, 68
I sympathise, but Martha needs to be more accepting of Niamh’s situation: people’s brains work differently. I find it extremely challenging to maintain social ties, even with dear friends. Martha’s attitude may provoke guilt and avoidance in Niamh, rather than a greater level of engagement.Joe, 29
You be the judge
So now you can be the judge. In our online poll below, tell us: should Niamh strive harder to stay connected with Martha?
The poll is now closed
Last week’s result
We asked whether Tolu should listen to his flatmate Rick and get out of the kitchen.
93% of you said yes – Tolu is guilty
7% of you said no – Tolu is innocent
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