I had 2 friends in high school, and we were quite close. Then college life started, and we went to different colleges. One of them went to a college out of state. And so there was no physical contact between us for 2 years.
One of them, let's call her 'A', went to study in another state, and there the hostel rules were very strict and no contact with people other than parents was allowed.
And the other 'B' studied close to our hometown. So I had occasional small talk with B and sending some memes and jokes here and there to keep the friendship alive.
Now after the entrance exams for our respective courses have been conducted, after being postponed repeatedly, we got together.
We held conference calls (audio) 2-3 times and during those calls just caught up in the happenings in last 2 years, small talk about family, etc.. ("How's everybody?" kind of questions).
But there seemed to be little or no flow of conversation beyond that. So I tried to make topics like "Funny or interesting anecdotes in home or college during last 2 years".
But still both of them kept almost mum, with only vague responses like-
A: we had lots of fun, hostel was so fun, really enjoyed..
B: fun? seriously? there was only studies and exams!
So I thought we had grown apart, and accepted the reality. But both of them are determined to conduct more of these dry conference calls.
I wanted to know the experiences of my friends and have meaningful conversations about things that matter (environment, human rights, future plans, etc.) But they seem to have just shut up, jammed close.
Then I made this group for us to send group texts, with a little more luck in encouraging them to talk. I asked them about "changes in perspective or opinion from school to college days and how it affects you", only B said a little, A just kept postponing it with "I'll think about it".
I even gave my own answer for the changes in perspective question and explained what I felt was more fruitful than small talk. By now, I have grown tired of this correspondence.
Then they put on a surprise video conference, and as usual, conversation was the same repeated small talk about future college and courses to join, family.
How to encourage conversations with them to go beyond small talk?
Edit: As per aarbee's answer, A was in a relationship in school, which ended soon after college started. And B is in a long distance relationship.
I did ask them a few details about their love life here and there, and A seemed to want to just erase the memory of her relationship. B has just started chatting with her boyfriend more regularly after exams. So nothing much in the topic of romance.
When we were in school, we used to talk about songs, movies and school, but towards the end, A was spending maximum time with her boyfriend and B was lovesick for her boyfriend, which kinda left me out because I was single and not interested in relationships.
As soon as B got a boyfriend, A and B became closer friends, with many of other classmates who were in relationships (school life was coming to an end, they wanted to squeeze out every single chance for romance).
I also asked them about their hobbies during lockdown, how they were spending free time after exams and both of them replied they had watched movies and listened to new songs. So I enquired which was their favourite movie or song, but they didn't seem interested in the topic at all.