Disconnected: The app I made for a long distance relationship

It’s a well known phenomenon: long-distance. You meet that crazy sweet person, senses are peaked, but location becomes a problem. With all of the apps and technology for meeting someone though, why aren’t there more simple & fun ways to keep people together?

“That’s the cutest fucking thing I’ve ever seen” — Friends

The idea was sparked when we were snapping goofy keepsakes on my last day in London. I was about to jump on a plane for the holidays and then inevitably land back in Amsterdam to solve all my problems, get my life together, read a million books, and strike gold. Well actually my UK visa was up and I had little choice but to be distant from a person I’d grown extremely close to over the last few months.

I wanted to do something unique for us. Something to help keep in touch even in the hardest moments. A reminder of just how simple feelings really are without the complication of language.

It was easy actually. We already had matching tattoos. A solid and hollow dot that when put together makes you completely forget what it feels like to be alone. I mean think about it: another person has permanently marked you deep in their skin. It’s insane.

So I made it digitally. I wanted it to be a bit of a surprise, so when she walked away to smoke a cigarette, I quickly bought a domain name and worked on validating the idea:

A one dot text messaging app used by sliding your dot to the other via thecollidingoftwostellarbodies.com

I found a tool called ClockworkSMS that would power the messaging part. It was an easy build and it was ready after a couple days. The dots were made completely using css, they would show up in random locations with some simple logic, and when dragged together would display a canvas animation of colliding stars (sourced from mrdoob).

We used it all the time. It was fun to get a dot, and after setting it up as a web app through safari it was insanely easy to send one. Some days we’d send dozens, some days a few, but every day was different.

The really visual part of the app though was something I added on after a bit. Like the icing on the cake. When both people had sent a dot and were still on the app looking at the colliding of the stars, you would see flash of red. It was some pretty fucking sexy javascript.

What I failed to mention though, was every time we texted with this, ClockworkSMS would charge me a few cents. After a few months of long distance it added up to a heafty phone bill. Talking about the cash money would have ruined it though and I didn’t mind spending if it made us feel all giddy.

This is the part where I say we lived happily ever after and the digital world is the solution to all relationship problems. However, we’re not cyborgs and even the cutest fucking stories come to an end.

Where it gets freaky though is that since we used our own app to communicate, I have analytics of an entire long distance relationship. Right up to the last dot.
Red shows undelivered messages

After the break-up I kept it online and after over a month of silence a couple of dots flew back and forth. I don’t know if we communicated from a blind hopeful state or if the digital world was glitching me out. Maybe one day everything will make sense but in hopes of closure I’ll have to tell a fucking cute story and render the app disconnected.

If you’d like to see the app, it’s still online but no longer sending messages at thecollidingoftwostellarbodies.com

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