I’ve seen a lot of posts/comments of late about how to stay connected without social media or that discuss the fear of losing connection by deleting it. I get it — I had the same concern and fear, and it’s only amplified during an isolating pandemic.
That said, it is well and truly possible! In fact, I feel more connected than ever before right now thanks to some actions I took, perspectives I’ve adopted, habits I’ve built, and tools I’ve used.
So, I wanted to provide these little tips and tricks that have really helped me since deleting all my social profiles (minus reddit) in early 2018 — which, I might add, was a signal factor in improving my mental health and my close relationships, as well as reducing my time spent online or on my phone. I could still use reddit a little less… okay, a lot less… but deleting all other social media has been a really great start for me.
Maybe these will help you, maybe they won’t, but I say that it’s always worth the effort to put out a little more goodness and hope into the world. I hope you find some of that in the below 🙂
- When You Delete, Reach Out First. Now, this might take a little time investment, but it’s so worth it. I went through my friends list and reached out to the folks that were important to me, giving them my non-social media contact information and asking for theirs. I gave them a month to respond before I deleted. What did this accomplish? First, I reconnected with a ton of people I hadn’t had meaningful interaction with for a long time. Second, I didn’t lose contact with some of the acquaintances I didn’t want to lose, even if we don’t often talk.
- But It’s Okay to Lose Some Contacts. Even with the above outreach, you’ll wind up losing touch with some folks. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s normal, in fact. Life and relationships are fluid things. You’re not always going to remain friends with that one Australian you partied with at that one hostel during that college Spring Break trip. Or was it Winter Break? And what was their name again? Past classmates or colleagues can remain past classmates or colleagues. Remember: you can always reconnect if the opportunity or chance arises anyways. I find that not worrying about such a vast net of people as can be accessed by social media means I focus more on those closest to me, which has strengthened my circle immensely — and that has paid dividends in terms of resilience against the isolation of the pandemic.
- Use Reminders to Make a Connection a Habit. There are plenty of ways to do this from a regular calendar reminder you set, to writing it down in a daily planner, to IFTTT triggers when you do some activity that will automate reaching out or remind you to do so. But my favorite — and, yes, I’m biased because my good friend actually made this tool — is Call Your Friends. I just love the simplicity of it for helping me keep track of friends, family and their birthdays without using social media. The reminders aren’t intrusive – just one text message daily (maximum, as many days I won’t get one at all) reminding me to reach out to the contacts I’ve marked as important and on the cadence I want to connect with them. Sometimes they come with a little quote or prompt to make that outreach easier, too. It has really helped me realize how long we can go without reaching out, and how destructively lonely that can be. Instead, my close relationships are closer and the acquaintances I wanted to deepen are doing just that. Repetition gets results!
- Set Up Regular, Recurring Meet Ups. Speaking of repetition, I cannot stress this one enough: a regular cadence of meet ups with friends and family is one of the best ways to make connecting a habit and reducing loneliness. Routine is already a great life-hack, so why not apply it to relationships? It takes the stress of scheduling out of the equation, reduces back and forth digital communications so you aren’t glued to your phone or email, and gives you something you can look forward to — and if you need to miss one due to something unforeseen, it’s not that big of a deal. There’s always next week / next time! Here are a few of my favorites from my own life:
- Weekly “creative nights” where a friend and I catch up and then create something (eg. sketches, writing, gifts, crafts, political outreach/letters, life plans, etc…). There’s no pressure at all except that, by the end of the night, something exists that didn’t before. And that feeling of accomplishment becomes shared.
- Virtual “happy hours” with my single, living-alone friends – they need it more than ever right now and it’s a great space to commiserate and provide support.
- Game nights! Pre-pandemic, we used to have ~monthly board game nights between friends with a rotating cast of participants and hosts. My personal favorite, however, is D&D – nothing like forming epic memories together over months to years with a group that cannot help but become close-knit over that time. All of these still are possible with online tools, too, even if not quite the same.
- Write Letters. This is pretty self explanatory, but there’s a beauty to the long-form conversations of letters that simply gets missed with online and phone communication. Find a pen pal or few and start reconnecting by mail.