Accusation: Martha

Since moving abroad, Niamh has become even more annoying and keeps missing our scheduled calls

My best friend, Niamh, moved overseas a while ago and is terrible at staying in touch. This is 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 of a miser, someone who’s late for everything and often loses things, and she knows it. It’s just Niamh. But now she’s abroad, it’s hard for her to keep up with scheduled calls.

Last week, a few friends and I hosted a big Zoom call for the birthday of a mutual friend who also lives abroad. Everyone was notified 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 was confused about the time zones, but at that time she had been abroad for almost eight months. I think that’s a poor excuse.

She also messed up a few of our calls and we don’t talk as much as we used to. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve been scheduled to perform at a certain time and she’s been 30 minutes late – or just not showing up at all.

Often I have to wait or she only comes online after I message her on Zoom, Facebook, WhatsApp and e-mail. And if she’s on the phone, there’s a chance she’ll disappear during the conversation. One day I was in the middle of a conversation about my boss and the phone suddenly cut off. She didn’t try to call back. The next day I asked what happened and she blamed her internet VPN but was able to send a text message.

Maybe it’s teething problems because we’re getting used to being in different countries, but I feel like I’m losing my temper. Niamh suggested sending each other voice notes, but it’s harder to keep up with updates that way. You send a few, the other person sends a few a week later, and by then you’ve forgotten what you originally said.

And where does it end? Are you voice memos always? I prefer the directness and clarity of the challenge.

Defence: Niamh

I’m in multiple time zones so it’s easy to get lost. Martha needs to stop being so hurtful

I don’t think I’m as bad as Martha does. I am very active when it comes to messaging on WhatsApp and I even arranged to send flowers to Marta on her birthday.

I just get a little lost in all these diary calls sometimes, especially now that we’re hours apart. I really value Martha’s friendship, but we live very different lives now, thousands of miles apart. I think it’s only natural that we don’t talk 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 in the way we communicate. The time I missed our friend’s Zoom isn’t too bad – I did it in the last five minutes. And that was only because I had only recently moved and was still getting used to the time difference.

I also think Martha and I have different personalities. She will remember all the times I was late for a scheduled call, but not all the times I reached out to her to arrange the call myself.

When I forget a call, Martha will message me on about five different platforms until she gets a response, and then on the phone, she’ll be angry for about five minutes, telling me that my time isn’t more important than hers. Of course I agree, but I just made a simple mistake. While she was telling me about her job and my phone being disconnected because of my VPN, she was annoyed with me for a week. I think that’s a bit over the top.

We are too old to have petty arguments, especially since we don’t see each other in person. If I miss a call or am late for Zoom, I’ll apologize and then want to move on. Life is too short.

I can try to be more organized, but I think Martha and I should send each other voice notes more often to take the stress out of booking calls. It seems simpler and more flexible. That way we can stay in touch without the pressure.

Jury of Guardian readers

Should Niamh take it upon herself to keep in touch?

Niamh doesn’t seem as involved in this friendship as Marta: she should make more of an effort. They can both use calendar invitations that reflect the time zones and apps supported in both countries. But Martha has to decide if she should try to keep this friendship.
Olivia, 24 years old

We cannot keep our friends in cages. Niamh is in a different time zone and a different culture. It’s not fair to make her feel guilty. Martha’s badgers will drive a wedge between them. Be understanding, Martha, and accept Niamh’s suggestion of voice notes.
Clara, 65 years old

For Niamh, it is not so easy to maintain the same level of contact. This is a fact of life that Martha will have to adapt to.
Pete, 69 years old

Martha wants the old Niamh from their university days, but she has to see that Niamh has moved abroad and possibly moved on. There’s no point in calling her on the Zoom schedule: Martha will be even more frustrated and disappointed if Niamh misses them. Friendships come and go. Maybe it’s time for Martha to let it go?
David, 68 years old

I sympathize, but Martha needs to be more accepting of Niamh’s situation: people’s brains work differently. I find it very difficult to maintain social connections, even with dear friends. Martha’s attitude may cause 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. Tell us in our online poll below: Should Niamh try harder to keep in touch with Martha?

Last week’s result

We asked if Tolu should listen to his roommate 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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