Tips and techniques for keeping in touch with people more often?
December 12, 2012 9:48 AM   Subscribe

I want to keep in touch better with family and friends. What are your techniques, tools, and strategies for doing this?

I have a busy work/social/creative life. Sometimes I get focused on projects and deadlines, and then I look up and it's "Oh shit, I haven't emailed or talked to my grandpa in almost two months!"

I have people I already see/contact regularly, like immediate family and local friends and buddies I follow on Twitter. But there are other people I love and want to be in touch with more often, like overseas extended family.

I made a manageable list of those people, but now I'm a little stumped. Are there ways to keep in touch with them besides just setting a monthly "Email Auntie June" reminder? What are some ways you manage to keep in touch with people who aren't in your immediate social circle?

My basic social details in case they're helpful:
- I am *not* on Facebook and do not want to join
- OK talking on the phone, Skyping, texting, IM'ing
- OK emailing and snail mailing
- I have a blog and am active on Twitter

posted by cadge to Human Relations (11 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a list, then why don't you just go down it and call/email/write/tweet/skype one person a day (or whatever frequency you think is best)? You could put the date you successfully contacted them next to the name (make a spreadsheet if you want), so you know how much time has passed.
posted by greta simone at 9:58 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

For people that you can emailing: I have a tag in my email called "To reply", and I use Gmail's Priority Inbox feature to have emails from that tag sit above my regular inbox. I keep the last email of people I want to talk to tagged with "To reply", so that I can glance at it when I'm in my email and go "oh, I have a few minutes, let me write something to person X". This only works if people reply when you reach out.

You could replicate the function with flagged/starred mail in most mail programs, though it won't be as immediately obvious. You could also combine the "flag" system with your mail reminder idea, and remind yourself to check that tag once a month or so.
posted by Phire at 10:03 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

There's an app where you can take a photo and caption it and the service will send it as a postcard to whomever. Perhaps someone can point you to that - it's a really easy way to maintain contact. Traditional postcards are pretty easy too; they require very little input. Also there used to be a service where you could write one card and they'd send it personalised to whomever you selected from your address book, signed and everything - basically "write once, send to many, disguise that fact." Sorry I lack links for these things but my older relatives are all dead now so it's been a while since I used them.

Basically, though, I prefer to call. It's cheap and it's efficient because I can do it while I'm making dinner or washing dishes or whatever.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:04 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can relate to this. I live on the West Coast & my whole family lives on the East Coast.
As a result, even when I intend to call, I look up and it's 11:45pm their time.

For phone calls:
If you have a commute home after work, headphones work for the phone function- it's really comfortable to just lift the phone for your part of the conversation. (I hope it doesn't sound stupid detailing something that obvious, but it's a key thing for me on this issue) Oh- this is a godsend for grocery store treks (with self-checkout) too.

For snail-mail
I have a list of everyone's addresses tacked near my desk.
I print their addresses on labels, slap them onto ~5x7" envelopes, and basically obstruct my workspace with them, so that I'm motivated to get letters and goodies stuffed into them and sent off.

In the natural hectic/distracted routine that I have overall,
doing these 2 things has enabled me to get letters to everyone about once every six weeks and get everyone on the phone for a 30-45min conversation at least once every 2 months. As for Skype, Sunday seems to be good for everyone, in my experience, but whenever it is, I say pick a time & make it a priority-- like a little event.
posted by herbplarfegan at 10:07 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am *not* on Facebook and do not want to join

Fair enough, but it's my answer to your question ("What are your techniques, tools, and strategies for doing this?"). My friends and family are on Facebook, which is the point. I usually have a Facebook window open in my browser, and it's filled with photos and updates. My nephew became a dad this year, so he shares baby photos. Earlier this year an overseas relative had brain surgery and then climbed a mountain, and I was able to follow along. A friend who is a runner just started a blog and she's posting her articles. I have a few friends enduring final exams right now, and I am sharing sympathetic notes on their status updates.

It's a single browser window that changes my life in one way: I never find myself saying, as you said, "Oh darn, I haven't heard from _____ in two months!" If you don't want to join Facebook for whatever reason then so be it, and frankly if the people you want to keep in touch with aren't on Facebook, then it wouldn't work for you anyway. But you asked how folks do it, and that's how I do it. Everybody I want to stay in touch with uses it, so I use it to stay in touch with them.
posted by cribcage at 10:13 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

My boyfriend does, indeed, just use a reminder on his iphone. I like the feature to have the reminder when I arrive somewhere, so it reminds me when I get home and could make the call.
posted by ldthomps at 10:19 AM on December 12, 2012

I think Darlingbri might be referring to Postagram. I've used it for the sort of thing you are describing, but it's more of a one-time thing than a process for ongoing relationship upkeep.
posted by tinymegalo at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding cribcage too. My 'tool/technique' is Facebook. I have never used the strategy I described above. It was just an idea, because I can't think of any easier way to do this than Facebook.
posted by greta simone at 10:31 AM on December 12, 2012

As noted, if your objection to Facebook is "bah humbug" then you're limiting yourself. I'm amazed and thankful that Facebook has allowed me to stay in contact with friends all over the world that I certainly would have lost contact with otherwise. I've even made several new IRL friends because of Facebook.

If your objection is privacy, then with a little education and switching settings, that's also an easily mitigated problem.
posted by cmoj at 10:36 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for these answers!

Facebook - several of the people on my list are on Facebook, which sucks for me because it would be a one-stop shop for keeping in touch. I don't want to sign up because I know I'd get overwhelmed by it pretty easily (I'm already feeling maxed out by the social media streams I have now). I also have privacy concerns and don't trust Facebook not to just change settings unexpectedly. But thank you for pointing out the benefits from using it and how it solves this problem for you - this is exactly the kind of feedback I'm looking for.
posted by cadge at 1:30 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not to beat a dead horse in a tardy fashion, but it sounds like you're describing Facebook. Hear me out.

You know how you have privacy concerns and don't want to post things on Facebook? That's fine! You don't have to post. You can join under a pseudonym so none of your old classmates find you, open a passive account and treat it like a collective blog of your friends and family. You can go on it once a week to see what's new. You can post a million things everyday and annoy everyone you're friends with. Facebook is whatever you make it out to be.

I understand about the privacy concerns, and you don't have to share photos. But the thing is, your family doesn't mind sharing those photos and would love for you to see them. In fact, they are doing it so that you, specifically, can see these little bits of their lives. They are already meeting you halfway, here.

What I like about it is that instead of just crossing Aunt Mae off of a list and asking her "what's new?", I can use the photos and comments she posts as a jumping off point to more spontaneous, natural communication: "Hey Aunt Mae, I just saw a crazy photo of your dog, tell me about that!" She likes this because it means that people are responding to the little things she posts for them. You start the conversation a little further in, and she doesn't have to dig through her computer to email you the file. If she posts nothing, you can talk about that, or the things that other people are up to.

Or you could just set up a calendar alert, your call.
posted by blazingunicorn at 6:44 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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