Text Friends Are the New Best Friends: Here’s Why That’s OK

text friends are the new best friends universal
Dasha Burobina

It dawned on me recently that some of my best friendships—meaning ones that I’ve cultivated in person first—are now largely limited to text.

But not just any text: In fact, the virtual back-and-forth I have with friends, some who live near, some who live far, has resulted in some of the richest conversations of my life. The communication gets creative, too: We send stream-of-consciousness audio messages, bullet pointed recaps of our days that cover an extreme amount of detail or sometimes just something funny we found online. (This one recently made the rounds.)

Ever so rarely, a FaceTime gets suggested—but that is hardly the norm. On the contrary, the flurry of text messages can be short and sweet, or it can go back and forth for an hour with neither person ever deigning to move their thumb toward the call button. In-person time is even more difficult to come by.

But how come? Are we too busy for each other? And, if so, what does all this texting say about the general health of our friendships? Are our relationships OK?

Rachel Wilkerson Miller, author of The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People and the editor-in-chief of Self, says yes. Her take is that technology has simply replaced the way we used to do things. “As long as the back-and-forth feels like a quality friendship to both people, I think it definitely counts as one,” she says. “In my mind, texting, in some sense, is no different from how we used to write letters to each other.”

That’s just it: Putting pen to paper used to serve as a historical archive for our lives, but so does the real-time intimacy attached to our text message chats. “In my book, I refer to it as the idea of the ‘deep, shallow friend,’” Miller says. “It’s the person who you can share those really mundane things about your day with that adds so much value.” Maybe you’re texting about the traffic or about how the people at Sweetgreen got your salad order wrong. “If it was still a call-forward culture, we’d phone each other to share the minutia of those details,” Miller says. “But instead, the norm is now to send a text and it’s all super low stakes and easy. There’s a rhythm to that.”

Miller perfectly encapsulates why my text-based friendships are so meaningful in 2023. We’ve been through a global pandemic. Nearly all our lives have been upended in one way or another. In-person time evaporated and, on the other side, is harder to come by. But texting has stayed consistent throughout. “It’s a wonderful way to connect over all those stupid things—large and small—that happen in the moment before you move on,” Miller adds.

The arrival of iMessage also made this easier to pull off. As Miller points out, texting no longer means you’re walking around with a phone out at all times. “Maybe you’re watching Netflix on your laptop, but you’ve got iMessage open, too,” she says. “Texting is often just a more convenient way to talk.”

That said, even with text friends, technology boundaries may be required. “It’s important to recognize when you’re really heads down and having a conversation because it means you’re not engaged with the world around you,” Miller says. If someone else is in the room with you, an acknowledgment is courteous. “You want to be wary of the moments when texting becomes too much of a distraction.”

The evolution of friendship continues.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...