Make new friends, but keep the old
October 29, 2008 12:05 AM   Subscribe

I've recently moved across the US, away from a group of friends I was close with. How do I keep the group friendship alive?

During the last few years I lived on the west coast, I became close with a group of friends. They were at the core of my social life; I saw them 2-4 times a week. However I never developed correspondence with any of them outside of these group meetings.

Now that I have moved to the east coast, I'm not sure how to keep up these friendships. I still listen in on group email lists, but as they are mostly about planning activities that I now can't attend, I don't really feel like I have a place in the conversation.

I don't have any history of emailing or instant messaging with anyone in the group personally (aside from business-y requests such as "can I get a ride with you"). I don't have a phone history with anyone either, but I hate the phone so that's peachy by me.

Any ideas about the best way to keep in touch with a sizeable group when almost all former interaction was in person? Or any ideas about turning a group friendship into a set of individual friendships, if the group one is unmaintainable? I'd feel awkward contacting any one person in the group, but also spammish emailing the lists (and less likely to get a response as it's less personal).

Along those lines, I don't know what protocol is for visiting a group; it's easy to go back when there are large events happening (weddings or whatnot) but I don't foresee any of those soon. Suggestions?

Note: I feel like I'm doing fairly well at meeting new friends in my new location, but I don't want to abandon my old social network. They are all really fantastic people and I'd like to keep up with them, even if I should never be so lucky as to move back out west.
posted by nat to Human Relations (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'd love to know the answer to this, two of my buddies went to CO last year and now the only interaction we have are the awkard "how are you doin" conversations or the drunken "man I miss you guys so much" conversations. It's tough but you just gotta face the fact that people move sometimes, yea it sucks and that doesn't mean you guys can't keep in touch and meet up yearly/every few years but it's probably never going to be the same kind of relationship you had when you lived in the same town. They could move there but that's asking a lot to keep a friendship going, unless it's in their best interests to move there too, but than that's a tough thing to arrange. I'm in a good situation b/c my buddies live in the best freaking ski state in the country so I can do annual trips, but it's still not the same as dropping in and having a beer on a wed night :(
posted by BrnP84 at 12:19 AM on October 29, 2008

Find something on the web related to one of the group's activties. So if these were your paintballing buddies, find a news story about paintball or a site with a paintball flash game or something.

Identify the person within the group most likely to respond to emails, send that person the link, with a couple of lines about how you're doing and asking a specific question about the group.

The link is your "cover": your reason for sending a private email when you wouldn't normally email. The lines about what's going on out east are to get them talking about you at the next meet-up. ("You think that's good? I heard from Nat a couple days ago, you won't believe what the prize in her local paintball tourney is!") The question is to provoke a response. Specific is better, because people are more likely to answer "Did Joe ever get that mess with his landlord straightened out?" than something vague like "How's things?"

If you don't get a reply, wait a while, find another link and try again with a different group member. If you do get a reply, just try to keep the conversation going. Pass on funny stories they will want to share with the others. Find out what's happening back west. It won't be the same as living there, but at least if you visit you won't feel totally out of the loop.
posted by the latin mouse at 1:59 AM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think you just have to make more of an effort really, otherwise its very easy to drift apart. Keep sending emails/texts with random banter, get involved with Facebook, and generally try a bit harder to phone up ever so often to keep in touch. Also when you do physically travel back home go out of your way to meet up with as many of your old mates as possible. Without blowing your entire holiday allowance, group gatherings are the way forward.

Also go out of your way to take part in big events like weddings, key birthday parties etc. etc. I've actually found that i get to see some friends more often now i live away from my home town as people make more of an effort to go out when you're back.
posted by Fezzer at 3:01 AM on October 29, 2008

I would highly suggest looking into Twitter. I was highly skeptical for a while, but once I finally got some of my friends to get it too, it's a nice way to keep in touch with what they're doing without a whole lot of effort.

I'm similar to you in that, when I left my friends behind I wanted to know what was going on with them but felt awkward texting them or emailing them, whathaveyou, for the sole purpose of "Hey, how's your life going?" Twitter provides a nice in-between. I get several texts a day (you can set it up to send you texts if you like, or just check the website,) with what my friends are doing. It's like I'm right there with them at 2am when they're stumbling home drunk!
posted by InsanePenguin at 5:27 AM on October 29, 2008

Seconding what Fezzer says--that was how it worked for me when I was in in NJ and all my friends were in Houston. I see them pretty regularly now that I'm in Austin.

Twitter is good if your friends use it, but if they don't, don't push them. Also, the "saw this and thought of you" emails are good, but I do that anyway, even with people I'm local to.
posted by immlass at 6:25 AM on October 29, 2008

isn't this one of the key purposes of Facebook/Flickr/Twitter/social networking?
posted by mary8nne at 7:03 AM on October 29, 2008

Twitter is good if your friends use it, but if they don't, don't push them.

Agreed. When I started using it, I sent out a couple emails to friends and explained why I thought it would be useful. It started out that only a few of us used it, but eventually most of them caught on to how neat it was. Now we have our own little network!
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:18 AM on October 29, 2008

Response by poster: mary8anne etc:

Yes, that is one of the points of Facebook/Flickr/Twitter etc. But then I'd have to be a member, and so would my group of friends, and I don't think a single one of them is. (Ages might be relevant: I'm late twenties, and one of the younger people; ages range up to 15 years older than me.)

Also in-person gatherings would be great, I'm lucky enough to have the time+miles to go, but I need an excuse. Any ideas?
posted by nat at 8:36 AM on October 29, 2008

I go to my old city twice a year to visit my old friends. (I moved from East coast to West coast two years ago.) While there we do a ton of things together, have parties, go drinking, go to events, etc. I schedule a ton of get-togethers so there is no downtime, all fun-time. I only stay three days so I crash one night with each of my bestest buds and split the time around.

I don't need an excuse, but I always plan it around seasons I like in that city. I'm sure you could find a good excuse "my favorite home team is playing, can't miss it" or whatever. Then just send out a mass email a month before you go asking people to leave some space on that weekend to see you. It's amazing how two weekends a year has kept almost all of my long distance friendships strong and immediate even when some of them aren't great at keeping in touch.
posted by np312 at 9:39 AM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

The way I keep in touch with wayward friends is to keep them in mind when having new experiences. That is, if a funny situation comes up think about how you would act if you were with them in person. If you would normally make a sarcastic comment, write a quick, sarcastic text or take a picture and e-mail it.

I liked the_latin_mouse's suggestion of sending a link. That way, it's less uncomfortable and you have a reason for e-mailing.

When people move, they may not be as involved with the day-to-day details of each other's lives but that's likely the stuff that you bonded about (if you saw each other 2-4 times a week). So even if it's just a little tidbit from your life, share it! Don't be afraid to go first.

Oh and don't send an e-mail stating "what's new?" because that's just begging to be ignored. Say specific stuff and ask specific questions.

Good luck!
posted by cranberrymonger at 1:56 PM on October 29, 2008

It depends on their favorite mode of communication. I'm like you on hating phone conversations, but some people will insist on the phone/hate writing online. Some people like writing online, and those are the ones I tend to stay in touch with more.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:16 PM on October 29, 2008

Start a fantasy sports league, if you're that type of crowd. We started a baseball league this year, even though only half of us knew what we were doing.

Also, my extended group of friends gets together twice a year: 4th of July and New Year's. Having something to look forward to every six months is great.
posted by kidsleepy at 12:20 PM on October 30, 2008

My friend group (~6 guys) & I've been out of college for nearly 5 years, and one thing that's held us together really well is a private message board that one of us set up on a domain just for us. We barely e-mail each other, rarely phone, and primarily use said board as a way of communicating. It's by login-only (ergo, no chance of overlapping with other social networks and being 'discovered there' by other friends), and we have a bunch of different forum topics that we use to keep each other abreast of our latest online finds, real life news, etc. One forum in particular: Visits. We don't all get together every year, but most of us are able to organize our schedules (yes, this takes lots of coordinated planning & effort) to meet up a few times a year in, if not necessarily convenient, then mutually agreeable locations that give us a few days to just hang out with each other & be our old selves. Part of what helps this is meeting up in fun locations that aren't where any of us live.
posted by knile at 8:48 PM on November 10, 2008

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