When people talk about staying connected to one another these days, we tend to think first of social media.
With Facebook and Twitter, we can stay connected all day, every day. In fact, you’ll learn what people are having for breakfast, where they’re “checking in” and see adorable photos of their pets drinking from the toilet. And after a while, a gnawing realization begins to sink in.
Ready for it?
Having information about someone is NOT the same as being connected to them. Getting together and looking in someone’s face for even a few minutes trumps months of social media. That’s not to say social media is bad. But it should be put aside for the real thing now and then.
Toyota did an ad for its Venza a while back that is the prefect embodiment of that idea. A young woman complains that her parents only have 19 friends on Facebook, while she has 687. As she sits alone in front of her laptop, she says in a monotone voice, “This is living.” Meanwhile, the ad cuts to scenes of her parents mountain biking with just a few of their living, breathing friends.
If you really want to stay connected, realize that it takes some time and effort. After all, this person is your friend, right? Remember, a Facebook “friend” is not the same as a friend.
Here are a couple ideas, most of which used to be painfully obvious.
Resist the urge to text
Pick up the phone and call when you have time and when you’re not on the run. Don’t try to catch up while you’re driving the kids to soccer (for everyone’s benefit). Do it when you can concentrate only on that conversation. Speak with and listen to and honest-to-goodness human voice.
Write a letter
Not a wall posting. Not a tweet. Not an email. While an old-school email is better than the first two, why not go older school? When’s the last time you got a letter in the mail? These days, it can be an amazing personal gesture.
Keep a calendar with birthdays, just like mom used to do
Or at the very least, keep birthdays on your electronic calendar and have it alert you several days ahead of time. Send a printed birthday card with a handwritten note. A small, inexpensive gift is also a good way to let someone know they’re important to you. Compare that to posting “Happy BD!” on their wall with the other 686 friends.
Go have coffee at a coffee shop
Yes it takes time, and yes, you have to fit it into your schedule, and yes, it’s hard to find that time to fit it into your schedule. THAT’S THE POINT!
Many people connect to old friends through LinkedIn
It’s a fantastic way to break through the ice formed over many years. But aren’t you disappointed when you receive the auto-invite from them? Personally, I find it insulting, lazy and insincere. Really, how genuine can you possibly be when you push a button that immediately produces the line “.… I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Oh, please. Yes, you can write your own personal invitation, and no, it’s not difficult to figure out how. After you’ve connected, take the opportunity to continue communicating.
Execute a drive-by baking
Or as Betty used to say, “Bake Someone Happy.” Four cupcakes and a note left on the front porch can make someone’s day. Put the treat in a container to keep from feeding the neighbor’s cat. You’ll have to get your container back later. By the way, that’s a positive, not a negative.
Food is the original social medium
Sure, you already have people over for dinner, so mix it up a bit. Why not a few friends for a laid-back, participatory dinner. A taco bar, for example. Or hoagie bar or a pizza bar (personal pizzas made on the grill). Open cold beverages and get caught up. No sweat.
Invite a friend over for a movie. If you can borrow a digital projector from work and show a movie on the wall, that can make the event feel unique.
Go for a walk
If you live near your friend (which certainly doesn’t imply staying connected any more), go for a walk. You’ll get some exercise while you get caught up.
Once you get rolling, you’ll have your own ideas. Still, the essential point is to show you’ve taken the effort to connect, one friend to one friend. Whether it’s through a gesture or a personal get-together, you’ll have broken through and re-energized a friendship and reminded one another why you became friends in the first place.