Three Apps for Making Distance Shorter

I tend to travel a great deal. It makes it kind of tough, at times, to maintain a connection with the ones I love. That may seem strange in the age of so many social media connections and such, but that’s only if you forget about the idea of signal-to-noise.

Yes, I can post an “I miss you” on Facebook to my partner, or an “attagirl” to my daughter via twitter. I can sit there and take pics of my travels using Swarm and have them automatically post to Instagram and echo to Tumblr.

But all of those apps are designed to be scrollers – they actually hire people specifically to find ways to keep you looking at content, post after post and pic after pic. That means that my “attagirl” comes right after the rescued pit bull taking a bath and right before the diatribe against the latest presidential candidate faux pas. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

The Gift of Focus

That’s why I’ve kept on the lookout for applications that cut through the signal-to-noise and re-create that feeling of “special”. Here’s three that my partners and I have found work pretty well:

  • Without– This was one of the first apps of its kind, and it is pretty much as simple as it gets. You pair with one other person (not terribly useful for polyamorists, sorry) and it will use location services to figure out when you are together or apart. While you’re apart, it has a built-in camera that is configured to automatically take selfies that are sent to your partner. You can add a brief message (or kissy-face emoji) to the message, and even pre-configure them so that you can send off that “I Love You” with just a couple of swipes.

    It doesn’t do much more than that, but it really doesn’t have to; it’s basic and that means there’s very little that can go wrong.

  • Avocado– I have no idea why the name was chosen, but Avocado is like Without with bells and whistles. Like Without, you “pair” the app with one other person (app developers, take note: there’s a lot of poly people out there who would like some attention). This is also the only app I describe that works on both iOS and Android, by the way; sorry.

    However, there are both more and less features. Without stores pics on the phone, but Avocado has its own picture gallery – a nod towards privacy. It also provides some fun little animations where you can “give kisses” to you partner (on their picture) or otherwise write on or manipulate the image. The killer feature for me and my girlfriend, though, is this: when you want to send a “hug” to your partner, you have to actually press your phone against something (presumably your chest) and it gives you a little vibration. That haptic feedback may not seem like much as you read about it – but thanks to our narrative natures, when my phone buzzes against my body the story I hear in my head is this is from her. It never fails to bring a smile.

  • Postagram– This is the dark horse of the list, because while it is an app on the phone, it is used to send physical postcards using the images you take with your phone. You can include a brief message with the picture, but the object of your affection gets a physical card from you. Not quite as personal as a hand-written letter (always better) but still with a tangible presence that feels more intimate than a simple message, email, or e-card.

    Each postcard costs $0.99 or more, which is more costly than the e-version of an image, but that also helps make it a more exclusive means of communication. Oh, and the picture on the postcard pops out into a polaroid-size print that is easier to keep.

Many of my friends have used things like WhatsApp and SnapChat to stay in contact, but I’ll be honest – I don’t find them terribly intuitive. How about you? What have you used to stay in touch with loved ones when you’re apart? Any secrets to long-distance romance you’d like to share – or questions you have?

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