Make It Stop: “I’m The Worst At Staying In Touch”

I’m bad at keeping in touch with college friends. I love and miss them, and I’m terrible about texting back in a timely manner or getting my tush to NYC to see ‘em all. How can I make my bad friend habits stop?

Oh honey, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s totally understandable why you’ve been dropping the ball.

Sometimes maintaining long-distance friendships feels like having a ghost for a pet. You can feed it, walk it and talk to it, but honestly, it’d be just as easy to ignore it and focus on a living breathing furball you can play fetch with.

But the guilt! Oh man, the guilt from not returning texts grows like a Gremlin who’s been fed after midnight. And the longer you take to respond, the more egregious your violation feels. Before you know it, you’re caught up in a shame spiral, unable to just send the damn text. It shouldn’t be hard, but it is!

It’s totally understandable why you’ve let things between you and your college friends slip. You’re up against a few challenges. The first, most obvious one is the distance. It’s tough to maintain a presence when you’re a road trip away.

Also, the friendships you make in college are forged in a highly specific crucible when your list of commonalities ran long. You all were away from your family and had school in common. When that’s taken away, it can be hard to weather the gap. College friendships, generally speaking, are hard to manage for that very purpose. Once you receive your diploma and move away from your dorm mates, the number of things you have in common dwindles until it almost feels like you’re in each others’ lives for nostalgia’s sake.

Technology makes things easier, but it also makes the quality of interaction feel cheaper. You can “heart” an Instagram or “like” a Facebook status, giving a sort of lazy presence, like waving from across a highway.

Often times text messages from old friends become something else needling for your attention in an already crowded field of pings and alerts. Taking the time to respond properly becomes a hassle. Personally, I only enjoy text messages when they make me laugh or inform me. Either, “I’ll be there in five minutes”, or, ”Dude, I just heard Crazytown on the radio and it totally reminded me of when we played spin the bottle at Ryan’s house.” Open ended “How are you?” texts are the least fun to answer. It’s like typing a book report about yourself while you’re in line at Chipotle.

But, it’s understandable to still crave a connection with your college friends. That what humans do; they want to connect. It might help if you schedule time to respond to your faraway friends. Pick the first Saturday of every month. Take your computer to a coffee shop and bang out a bunch of emails to your fave buds. Or you can pour a glass of wine and touch base with them for an hour every other week. The guilt and anxiety should reduce once you know you have a designated time to catch up.

And seek other low-energy ways to connect. GChat is wonderful for real-time check-ins. It’s better than texting because you only sign in when you’re available to talk. It feels breezier and more fun than volleying texts randomly.

Listen, it’s only natural that your college friendships will change. But with a little perspective and some advance planning, you can absolutely be the kind of friend you’re longing to be.