Staying in touch with old friends
March 17, 2005 11:06 PM   Subscribe

Despite my best intentions, I'm not especially good at keeping in contact with people. How do you stay in touch with friends after you've parted ways?

I often find myself thinking, "Oh, I should write So-and-so" and then never quite get around to sending or replying to email. Partly this is due to procrastination, and probably partly due to my introverted nature. I've lost touch with some old friends this way, and I'd like to drop the World's Worst Correspondent title for good. Has anyone with similar proclivities come up with any tricks to keep the correspondence flowing?
posted by Aster to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pick up the phone and talk.
Do not have a reason.
Do not plan your conversation.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:33 PM on March 17, 2005

I try to call people on the weekends (although it hasn't happened recently).

I started a blog for all my college friends so that we can keep each other at least mildly updated.
posted by gramcracker at 11:58 PM on March 17, 2005

I'm the opposite--I AM a "keep in touch" person--and it was hard for me to come to understand that some people just aren't that good at keeping in touch. I too have lost old friends this way, and some people are just naturally more inclined to stay in touch than others.

One thing that I do, though, is I write/think of a little list at the beginning of the week of a few people I need to call/email...each day after that I take a few minutes to write an email to just one person on that list and then I cross them off and the next day I'll call/email the next person. I try to have only 3-4 people/week so I know I can finish my list because I know if I write a list and don't finish it I'll just be discouraged.
posted by popsicletoes at 12:11 AM on March 18, 2005

Finding something you're both passionate about helps--I'd often exchange letters with a friend in California who's into films. We'd spend most of each letter debating merits of different films & directors and swapping recommendations; other than that we didn't have much to say except for the typical inquiries ("family ok?" etc.) and "I hope things are going well for you."

As for the procrastination, the best thing (for me, at least) is just to sit down and say "this won't be the best X the world has ever seen but I'm going to make/write/paint/compose one anyway." And then, natch, to start.
posted by Tuwa at 1:40 AM on March 18, 2005

I'm also absolutely horrible at keeping in touch with people and although I have regretted losing contact with some people in the past, I've come to realise that I will naturally keep in touch with people i care about, and if it's not coming naturally then it's probably just that that person's not that important to me. This only came after i realised that the quality of my friendships were more important than the quantity. (How high can the quality of a friendship be when you have to force yourself to maintain it?)
posted by Kololo at 5:07 AM on March 18, 2005

You might laugh, but I use livejournal. If it helps, as far as phone conversations go, have a schedule for yourself. Write one or two names that you plan to call on a given weekend and just ring people up. As WGP says, don't have a reason, etc.
posted by Eideteker at 5:15 AM on March 18, 2005

I struggle with this for a different reason.

My friends have all moved away and now have young kids (as well as jobs). It is almost impossible to reach them by phone and they don't have time for the computer or letter writing.

I miss them so I hope our lives sync up again someday.
posted by jeanmari at 5:47 AM on March 18, 2005

I'm pretty bad at the day-to-day keeping in touch thing. But one way I've found to stay in at least partial touch with my friends is to enter in all their birthdays on my computer calendar, and make a point of e-mailing them on their birthday. That way, they hear from me at least once a year. Sometimes it doesn't go beyond my birthday wishes and their "Thank you" reply, but sometimes it sparks e-mail conversations that go on for a while and help revive dormant friendships.

I also keep a blog, which lets even those friends who I don't write to directly know what's going on in my life.

Also, my wife and I have lived in several different cities, and when we go back to someplace we once lived, we have far too many friends to see at once. So, we've taken to sending out a mass e-mail to everybody we know in that area saying "We'll be in town on Sunday, and we'll be holding court in (INSERT LOCAL COFFEEHOUSE) from 2PM-6PM. Feel free to drop in at any point in that period." It helps spare us from having to do friendship triage, where you have to choose who you're not going to tell about your visit to town. (I know the thrust of your question was about ongoing e-mail type communication, but I thought I'd mention this, too.)
posted by yankeefog at 7:16 AM on March 18, 2005

I'm a keep-in-touch person and my technique is a lot like popsicletoes'. I correspond with most of the people I know via email. I keep a really convenient address book on the desktop of my computer and when I want to procrastinate for 5-10 minutes from something I'm doing, I'll open it up, find someone I haven't heard from in a while, and drop them a short note. Other tricks I use to keep me communicative

- I send postcards when I'm on vacation, lots of them. Often they're really brief, though they are usually a little more than just "thinking of you" There are some people who get more postcards from me than regular email

- if I see something that reminds me of someone, or that I think they'd be interested in, I'll either send them a note right then, or write their name on a list with a note explaining what the thing was I wanted to tell them. Something like "Christine - real goods catalog". I figure it's better writing something short when you're really inspired than waiting for that good time to write which, for me, never comes

- I value corresponding and keeping in touch almost as an end in itself somettimes meaning that I don't try to get too hung up on content. While I don't like [and try not to send] really short "I'm fine, how are you?" emails or letters, I'll often skip the catching-up on everything note andinstead just send a story of how my day has been, or pass on news of mutual friends if I have some. A lot of times catching up with one friend gives me news and momentum to pass that on to other friends because I know most of my friends don't keep in touch with each other as much as they keep in touch with me.

- Also, whenever I'm travelling, either for work or for vacation, I try to stop in and say hi to people I know in the area, even if it's just for coffee. I'm rarely so busy that I can't spare time for coffee/beer and just having even an hour or so of face to face time is good for renewing contacts and feeling in touch

- lastly, some of my friends aren't any good at keeping in touch. I try pretty hard to decide if it's important to me to have a reciprocal friendship with them or if I just want to keep them in my life. If it's the latter, I don't wait for them to get back to me [though I do sometimes wonder if my emails to them get lost] and I just sort of update them as I see fit and don't worry too much about balance. Some friends are just only going to be in-person friends. Since I travel a lot I know I'll probably se them again, but if you're not a traveler and neither is your now-distant friend that can be a hard chasm to bridge.

I live with a guy who sounds more like you, Aster, he's fairly introverted and his small group of friends includes people he pretty much hasn't spoken to since college. What has worked for him has been both writing shorter emails to people, having a mass-email list that at least gets out news like new address, new school, whatnot, and social software sites like Flickr and Audioscrobbler where he has little connections to people he knows and has something he cares about [photos, music] that he can chat with them about. Also, instant messenger is a great way to just pop up and say hello to people in a quick friendly way without the asynchronicity or lag of email. Sometimes it seems he prefers swapping just a few quick IMs every few days than writing one long email every week or every other week.
posted by jessamyn at 7:17 AM on March 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

I second the group Blogs. I use three of them to keep in touch with people from various points in my life. Six, eight, ten people as members can make a pretty interesting blog with frequent updates.
posted by Miko at 8:12 AM on March 18, 2005

I have to admit I've reconnected with several old friends by finding them or being found on social networking sites. Friendster has been best for me, this way.

Also, remember that everyone Googles himself/herself eventually. If you have a website, put up a page of lost contacts you'd like to find again, with their names on it, and a message that you'd like to see them again. When they Google themselves, they'll find it (unless they're web celebrities or have extremely common names) and contact you (maybe!).
posted by scarabic at 8:34 AM on March 18, 2005

posted by Manjusri at 9:39 AM on March 18, 2005

In general, whenever I run into something (e.g. an AskMe question) that makes me think of somebody I haven't been in touch with in a while, I write them mentioning that, and toss on a "since we last spoke seven days/years ago, I've been through the following important life changes. What's new with you?"

Off-topic, but present buying can be much easier this way too -- if you see something that you know someone would like, and feel like buying it for them, do. After all, the alternative is spending time intentionally shopping.
posted by Aknaton at 12:42 PM on March 18, 2005

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