What Is a Virtual Hug & How Do You Send One?


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Who doesn’t need a hug every now and again? There are plenty of reasons to hug someone: friendship, support, celebration, and love—plus so many more. 

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That said, the desire to hug someone isn’t the same as actually doing so. Often, we’re separated from those we love. This is particularly true during a time of quarantine. However, even when you’re not in lockdown, you might still be unable to see the person you’d like to hug.

That’s naturally an upsetting situation to be in. Luckily, there’s a solution: you can send them a virtual hug.

What is a virtual hug? How do you send one? This guide will shed light on the topic and help you understand what you can do to express your love for someone you can’t see in-person.

What Is a Virtual Hug?

Definition of a virtual hug with an image of hearts in the background

How do you care for someone from afar? How do you cheer someone up over text?

Ideally, you’d like to express your feelings directly when showing your love for someone. That doesn’t always mean you’ll have the opportunity to do so.

Sending a virtual hug is an option to consider in these circumstances. A virtual hug is a way of expressing the same emotions you would with a real hug through different means. The physical act might not occur, but the emotional message and content are the same. Sometimes, that’s all that matters.

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How to Send a Virtual Hug

Steps to send a virtual hug with an image of hearts in the background

Share a virtual hug with a loved one in 4 easy steps — keep reading to know what to consider and what your options are.

Step 1: Consider the situation

Remember, there isn’t one specific way to send a virtual hug. Here are just a few examples:

  • GIF: An incredibly simple way to send a virtual hug is to send someone a GIF of a hug via text. This is an option you might consider if you’re just trying to casually let someone know you care about them.
  • Ecard: Sending an ecard adds a special touch to a virtual hug. It shows you spent a little more time thinking about how you want to express your feelings. Companies such as American Greetings offer a range of free ecards for plenty of occasions. You can read our guide on sympathy ecards for more ideas.
  • Social media: Social media has made staying in touch with loved ones from afar easier than ever. You can also use social media platforms to send virtual hugs. This might involve posting a relevant GIF or a picture of you hugging a loved one on their Facebook page.
  • Apps: Some apps allow you to “hug” someone virtually. One such app is I Need Hugs. This app lets you customize your virtual hug with emojis, images, and more. You can even use it to give yourself a virtual hug when you’re feeling down!
  • Emojis: People can get pretty creative with emojis these days. Many already use them to send virtual hugs. This is as simple as sending an emoji of a figure (ideally one that looks as much like you as possible) with its arms outstretched. If the person to whom you’re sending a virtual hug understands what you’re getting at, they’ll send a similar emoji back.
  • Virtual reality: Okay, this example may only be for the more tech-savvy readers, but it’s worth including given that VR headsets have become more popular in recent years. If you and someone you love both use VR headsets, you can hop into a social VR app that allows your avatars to hug one another. In the future, you might even get the physical sensation too. Companies like Disney have begun developing VR jackets that can simulate the actual sensation of receiving a hug!

Those are just some examples to consider. The specific reason you want to send someone a virtual hug will determine the method you use.

For instance, maybe you’re wondering how to support someone who is grieving from afar. If you’re trying to comfort someone mourning the loss of a loved one, odds are a simple GIF won’t do the trick. Instead, an ecard or a more formal option would be the better choice. Depending on how close you are to someone who's grieving, sending a gift, offering to help plan a virtual funeral on a platform like GatheringUs, or simply giving them a call will likely be much appreciated as well.

On the other hand, maybe you simply haven’t seen your bestie in a while, and you don’t think you’re going to have the chance to any time soon. In that case, a GIF might do the trick just fine.

Step 2: Look into your options

You’ve chosen your method. Now, it’s time to look into your specific options within that method.

After all, you always want a virtual hug to be special. If you’re sending a GIF, you have lots of options. Some are cutesy. Some are funny. Some are heartfelt. Some include pop culture references your loved one will appreciate. You want to make sure you choose a GIF that effectively conveys how you’re feeling.

The same goes for just about any of the other methods listed above. There are thousands of ecards that may serve as virtual hugs. There are different types of emojis you can use. There’s more than one social VR app you can send a virtual hug through. Taking the time to make the right choice is just as important as taking the time to choose the perfect method.

Step 3: Decide when to send a virtual hug

As with most things in life, timing is important. Sometimes, you should send a virtual hug right away. Other times, it makes more sense to wait. This is going to be a personal decision, but here are some examples to consider. 

If you’re reading this because you’re wondering how to console someone or how to comfort someone who is coping with a loss and you suspect they’re feeling overwhelmed, right now might not be the right time to send a virtual hug through an ecard or social media. They may have other priorities on their mind. They may appreciate a virtual hug later when they have more time to respond.

Perhaps you’re sending a virtual hug to let a friend know you miss them. The type of virtual hug you send could serve as a springboard for a conversation in which you reconnect. However, if you send your virtual hug while they’re at work or otherwise preoccupied, they won’t have time to send a lengthy response, and you’ll miss your opportunity.

That’s not to say you should never send a virtual hug to someone when they’re busy. Maybe you have reason to believe a friend or family member has a lot on their plate these days and wouldn’t have much time for a conversation regardless of when you sent a virtual hug. If so, sending them a virtual hug when they’re at work could provide them with a little emotional boost to help them get through the day.

The point is, different situations call for different timing. Consider this when deciding when to send someone you love a virtual hug.

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Step 4: Write a message

Sometimes it makes sense to send a basic virtual hug (such as a GIF or emoji) without much of a message. For example, if you know a friend is dealing with a mild breakup that’s not particularly devastating, a simple virtual hug with no accompanying message could get the message across.

On the other hand, if you’re sending a virtual hug to console someone in grief, you probably want to include some form of message or letter with the hug. This is easy to do if you’re sending an ecard or using a similar method. Even if the method you’re using doesn’t allow you to directly include a message (for instance, if you’re sending a virtual hug through a social VR app), you can still send an email or leave them a message before or after sending the virtual hug.

As with all these steps, you need to keep the circumstances in mind when choosing whether to include a message. Sometimes it’s a good idea. In other situations, it’s unnecessary.

Virtual Hugs: Showing Love When You’re Away

It can be sad to realize you won’t always have the option of hugging someone in person when you want to. That said, technology has made sending virtual hugs easier than ever. These tips can help you do so properly.

Looking for more ways you can support or show love to someone during hard times? Read our guide on the best digital gifts or the best sympathy gifts.


  1. Shaban, Hamza. “Disney unveils a prototype virtual-reality jacket to simulate hugs, punches and a snake slithering across your body.” The Washington Post, WP Company LLC, 1 July 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2018/04/26/disney-unveils-a-prototype-virtual-reality-jacket-to-simulate-hugs-punches-and-a-snake-gas-powered-vibrations/

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