There’s a great quote that’s wrongfully attributed to Shakespeare that goes, “New friends may be poems, but old friends are alphabets. Do not forget alphabets, because you will need them to read the poems.” Regardless of who said it, it’s a wonderful reason to consider reconnecting with old friends, don’t you think?
Reconnecting with old friends helps us understand the poetry of friendship
Every single one of our friends taught us different letters of the alphabet. From our solid emotionally supportive friend from college to our zany “let the good times roll” high-school pal, we learned something from each one of them that allows us to read the full poem of friendship.
So, reaching out to old friends is a bit like getting a refresher course in that alphabet. Thankfully, it’s definitely a lot easier than relearning how to conjugate a verb or solve for X in an algebra equation! In fact, in the age of social media, reconnecting with old friends has never been easier. Plus, with all of us spending more time at home, there’s never been a better time!
With a few clicks on your keyboard and a quick tap on “add friend,” we can almost instantly find friends from our childhood, high school years, and beyond. Once you click that button, though, you have an important choice to make. Do you reach out and genuinely rekindle the friendship, or just leave them as “laugh at their memes and not much else” Facebook friends?
Just friending your 5th grade bestie on Facebook isn’t the same as actually reconnecting with them. In fact, just leaving them in the background can be toxic to your health. It’s all too easy to play the “look at how much better off than me they are now” game. Remember, most people only share the best parts of their life on social media, so these “passive friendships” never give us the whole picture. If you want to really relearn that friendship alphabet, you need to put in the effort to literally connect. Let’s talk about how to make that easier on both of you.
How to really reconnect with old friends
Bustle has a great article by Eva Taylor Grant on how to reach out to long-lost friends. I recommend checking it out. The overall gist, though, is to keep it simple. Once you hit that “add friend” button, reach out through a private message with a quick, “Hey, stranger! How have you been?”
Then wait to see if they respond. Don’t pester them or follow up with a barrage of “I haven’t heard from you, just checking to see if you got my message” notes. If they don’t reply, let it go. Not everyone wants to reconnect with old friends. If they do respond, spend a little time getting to know each other again in the low-pressure private message context.
When you’re both sure you really want to reconnect, then set a date to get together. As Grant explains, make sure you actually set plans, and not just toss out the dreaded “let’s get together sometime” kiss of friendship death. We all know that “let’s get together sometime” really means “I don’t want to see you, let’s not make this awkward.” Solid plans, like, “Hey, are you available for coffee on Tuesday at 2PM?” lets your old friend know that you genuinely want to see her…and find out if she truly wants to see you, too.
Once you do make that reconnect, follow licensed therapist Katie Krimer’s advice and manage your expectations. Sometimes, we reconnect and instantly rekindle those “best friends for life” feelings. Other times, we find that our old besties work better as new acquaintances. That’s okay, though! Be open to all possibilities and you won’t feel rejected if your old pal just doesn’t feel the same “reunion vibes” as you do.
Reminisce, but don’t act like no time has passed
When I sat down to write this, I wanted to say something about how getting together with old friends is like traveling back in time to revisit your favorite memories. How it often feels like no time has passed! While that can be true with some friends, therapists actually warn against pretending that time stood still since your last hurrah together.
Heidi McBain, a licensed therapist and marriage counselor, explained to Bustle that acting like no time has passed is unhealthy. “Depending on how much time has passed, you both may have changed,” she said. It’s important to honor that, to recognize that you’re both different people today and may not want to revisit the people you were 5, 10, or 20 years ago. So, definitely share fond memories and revisit the best parts of the past but do it in an “expectation-free” way. In other words, reminisce about the past with respect for the present.
Some old friends are better left in the past
Reconnecting with old friends is a great way to visit the past, but what if that past is best left behind? Let’s be honest, some of our friendships weren’t exactly healthy. Before you hit the “add friend” button on your 1st grade BFF’s Facebook page, ask yourself if this person made you feel good or bad about yourself in the past. If they were a toxic friend then, it’s not worth the effort to find out if they’re less toxic now.
For the most part, though, reconnecting with old friends is a fabulous way to travel back in time to the best moments of your life without worrying about pesky things like upsetting the time/space continuum. Just go into it with an open mind. Sometimes, it really is just like no time has passed and you can step right back into that easy flow. Even if you can’t, though, you’ll still come away with a better understanding of the alphabet of friendship.