Keep in Touch

Me, Myself, and this blog — Sean Bonner @ 7:21 pm
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I’ve never been too good at keeping in touch with people, this might sound strange given that I’m often associated with having a large network of friends and folks I’ve been involved with but I have a short attention span and put a lot of focus into what is in front of me at any given time which means that without realizing it I sometimes go weeks, months, even years without being in touch with people I genuinely like and care about. I’ve frequently chalked this off to just being busy but in hindsight this probably makes me a bad friend.

The worst part of that is once I’ve been out of touch with someone for a long time I don’t really know the right way to get back in touch with them. Either because I don’t know their new contact information or because I don’t know the context that would be fitting for a hi and hello. The last thing in the world I’d want to do is come off like I wanted something from them, as that is one of my biggest pet peeves when people I used to know reach out to me. For example, I interacted with a bunch of people when I was running a record label in a variety of ways. When I shut down the label a bunch of those people disappeared from my life as well. Years later when I was co-running an art gallery some of those people would pop back into my life but it was clear they had an agenda, they didn’t really know what I was doing but assumed it might help them out somehow. It was pretty lame. I’ve noticed the same trend again recently with people I was somehow involved with at the gallery who I haven’t heard from in years and are suddenly sending me notes to the effect of “Hey man, remember me? I saw you are writing for BoingBoing a lot recently, check out this thing I’m doing now..” – really. Is there anything shittier than that? (Don’t worry, I’m not talking about you. Unless you think I’m talking about you, then maybe I’m talking about you.)

But this is the thing right, the problem is I feel like they want to use me, not be friends with me. And reflecting that back on my own experiences I don’t want to be the kind of person who comes off as trying to use anyone.

Anyway, back to the point. When you loose communication and then try to rebuild it later it’s always suspect. It’s always suspect for me anyway and I try not to be that way to other people. The Japanese have a custom of sending news years cards out to their friends. This is a lowest common denominator level of effort but it it is some level of effort and it maintains some level of contact. It’s just enough to prevent those friendship ties from fading away to nothing. If at some point down the line you need to touch base with someone again, it’s doubtful they will think you don’t care about them unless they have something to offer because at worst the last time you’ve been in touch with them was the previous New Year when you took the time to send them a card.

I think this is a brilliant tradition and it’s something I’ve been thinking of taking up on my own because I don’t want these people who have been a part of my life to fade away and think I don’t care about them, but I also don’t want to have to manufacture a good reason to get in touch with them. Just saying hi should be enough. So in that right, a simple card saying Hi and letting them know I was thinking about them probably goes a really long way. I know it would if the situation was reversed.

I don’t think exceptionally highly of people I haven’t talked to in 10+ years who all the sudden get in touch with me hoping I can be of some benefit to them. However if at any point in the last few years they had reached out to just say hi and shown some level of friendship it would be a whole other situation. That said, it’s 2011 already and doing things that require the involvement of the post office or licking stamps seems kind of archaic, right? But I want to try to do something. My friends have always been the most important people in the world to me, definitely adopted family, and I hate the thought that I’ve let some of them fade away over the years for no good reason other than life getting in the way.

Dear friends, lets try to strengthen those ties again, cool?

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9 Comments »

  1. I’ve been thinking along similar lines…but postcards instead of cards-in-envelopes. Postcards are less intimidating, somehow. Just a quick note along the lines of “I saw x/y/z today and it made me think of you. How are you?” Plus then I’d have a use for my old postage stamps. And my old postcards. The main disadvantage of my plan is that it’s a rolling thing and not an annual Big Thing. Which makes it less intimidating, but somehow less likely to happen. (Does that make sense?)

    Comment by Sally J. — December 21, 2010 @ 8:00 pm
  2. A custom of sending a card near the end of the calendar year with either just a greeting or some information about your current status? I think you may have just re-invented the Christmas card with optional newsletter. And I say that with hopefully low levels of snarkiness :-) I always remember my mom tearing off the return address labels from Christmas cards we got to go through her address book (back then, of course, a thing of paper) and make sure she had everyone’s current address. I found myself doing the same thing this year with cards we got, and starting to think that I needed to get back into the yearly-update game myself.

    Comment by Fuzzy — December 21, 2010 @ 8:03 pm
  3. “That said, it’s 2011 already and doing things that require the involvement of the post office or licking stamps seems kind of archaic, right?” – No way!! It’s part of the reason I started the mix cd club. Getting something in the post from someone other than your bank or utility provider is one of the best feelings in the world. Whenever I receive something in the post from a friend I get all giddy and rush inside to open it up. I think it is because it is so personal. That person thought of you, and took the time to write down your address and mail it out (even if it’s just a card with a signature). Maybe it’s just nice to know you are in someone’s thoughts, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes.

    Comment by Wendy — December 21, 2010 @ 8:16 pm
  4. I’m with Wendy. There is a definite charm to old-school mail. That little extra effort says a lot.

    Comment by Burns! — December 21, 2010 @ 9:03 pm
  5. Having kids is another good excuse to do the yearly holiday/new year hello thing. Cards/snail mail are kind of a pain, but they’re also kind of cool. We’re a little slow on ours this year, but we’ll get one out in the next couple of weeks.

    Send me your current address which I hear is steeped in punk rock history and we’ll add you to the list.

    If you’re into that sort of thing…

    Comment by ttrentham — December 22, 2010 @ 12:40 am
  6. Hey Sean, what’s up? Caught your TEDxVienna video via a tip from cae.

    Comment by LeMel — December 24, 2010 @ 3:35 am
  7. Hey Sean, If you’re familiar with the Japanese tradition of sending New Year’s cards, then check out their tradition of networking, which is different from friendship. Putting two people together so that they might mutually benefit each other in business is one of the keys to success in Japan. Of course, usually you’re introduced by a mutual mentor.

    We have so many connections these days through our various work and play personalities. Then there’s all of the social networking. What’s a girl to do? When someone gets in touch asking for a job that no way I can give them, I try to instead give them what I can: an introduction, a direction in which to go, or, I buy them a drink and answer questions. I was helped by so many people throughout the course of my life. I bumbled into their lives blinded by naivete and desperation. And they helped me. So, there’s a karma thing going on.

    Another thing to think about: I’m a lurker. We worked together some time ago (although we never met), and I still keep up with your writings and antics. But, I don’t write, I don’t call. Sometimes I mistake tweeting and blogging and updating my status for communication. It’s not.

    Your post has inspired me. I shall make a greater effort this year to keep in touch, to help where I can, and to ask for help when I need it.

    Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu (Happy New Year)

    Comment by Daneeta Loretta Jackson — December 28, 2010 @ 3:50 pm
  8. This post made my day…those first 2 paragraphs are always in my mind whenever i surface from something that’s caught my fancy..i am a TERRIBLE
    friend and a terrible RELATIVE…i will now dive back beneath the waters.
    Thanks

    Comment by Patricia D. — December 29, 2010 @ 2:39 am
  9. You’re never far from my thoughts, Papa Bonner. (No homo.) (OK, well… Maybe a little homo.)

    Comment by thebadnewshughes — January 14, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

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