Old friends – you never quite forget them; you never stop seeing them. Social media has kept ex-colleagues and friendships festering in a digital vortex. One name search online can outline their story, like a greatest hits album listing note-worthy achievement.
It’s easy to wonder: did they get married? Have they reach the fashion industry, or given up on their dreams? Do their annoying flaws (the ones that split you up) still linger – has time made them a better friend?
Why people from your past come back
I was at a house party when I heard my name screamed by an ex best friend. Sheepishly, I approached, confused how a person who knows my deepest thoughts could feel like a stranger. When the party quietened down – when the drunks got tired and the dancers wore out, we were back to our past selves.
We always had that emotional chemistry. Just as siblings do, we squabbled, said mean words and competed, both eager to say ‘I won.’ We also clicked; laughed at the same jokes and enjoyed the same adventures. I felt indebted to her – she helped lift me out of my shell, giving me a lifeline when I needed someone to form wild memories with.
But as time went by, reconnecting became a weighty regret. I knew we had outgrown each other. All those traits I didn’t like, went from flutters to pricks. The great memories grew cloudy; I stopped wanting to hear from her. And I realised, she didn’t understand why I drifted, why are friendship initially ended.
To her, reconnecting meant living as before. Some people from your past come back in the hopes you’ll pick off from where you started. As though life got in the way, but your friendship wasn’t the problem. Maybe a new relationship spoilt your time together, or one of you relocated. Many old friends want to reconnect out of curiosity. Recently, I was contacted by an old friend who stumbled across me online. I felt she just wanted to wish me well and ask about my career.
A person from your past might have experienced a dramatic life event. They’re in a state of reflection, now remembering the great times you had together. They could be coming out of a breakup or divorce, needing support. Perhaps you were the one who comforted them during their last heartache. And often, people merely want to catch up. They want a friend who knows what happened during their drunk teenage nights. Someone who knows about so-and-so, who can share stories on childhood.
There are also the old friends who re-enter your life for a business proposition. You might be an ideal candidate to sell Avon products to, or a new supplement range. A long-lost acquaintance messaged me on Facebook to ask if I’d freely advertise her beauty products. I pretended the message vanished in bad Wi-Fi heaven.
What we need from friendship
An article on thejournal.ie, describes how Aristotle (Greek Philosopher) identified three types of friendship: utility (mutually useful), pleasure (shared interests) and virtue (friendship that’s based on respect, appreciation and love). As examples, you might have a friend who helps you shop for stylish clothes (utility), another who loves running with you (pleasure), and friends based on deep, selfless bonds. Virtuous friendships usually form when two people connect over similar personalities, ambitions and life values.
When these types of friendships change, people tend to drift apart. That’s why close colleagues rarely continue friendship after moving jobs. People lose the benefit of gossiping about their boss, or comparing notes before a meeting.
If you’re considering reconnecting with old friends, question what friendship category you shared. Is bringing a person back into your life going to continue a trusting, appreciative relationship, or are you hoping they’ll be your plus one at events you know they’d happily attend.
So, is reconnecting a good idea?
This leans on what you’re hoping to gain. Depending on how much time has passed, your friends may feel world’s away from what you remember. The free-spirited party girl might have settled in the country, swapping clubs for pubs. The glamorous beauty addict might have increased her already demanding cosmetic fix, splurging thousands on procedures while you struggle to accept spending £40 towards a foundation.
And it generally goes deeper. Your seemingly similar friends may have unrecognisably changed – in ways you can’t comprehend. They may have grown up and developed racial dislike for immigrants; hard-core policies and societal beliefs you fight against.
Your life circumstances will have adapted views. One of you may have acquired wealth, or children, or both. Can you feel comfortable reconnecting with what could be a completely different person? A friend who hasn’t grown as equally as you have?
How do you reconnect with a friend after a long time?
Bustle recommends simple and direct communication. Be honest: why are you choosing to get in touch? Did you come across an old picture of you together and feel nostalgia for your past? Did they show up on your Facebook newsfeed, or come up during a conversation?
Acknowledge a bad breakup
If a friend felt wronged by you, I think this should be addressed. You might want to apologise, or briefly reference how an event split you up. Note how you want to make amends and see if you can move on from what happened.
Recalling a funny memory can instantly paint over awkward polite greetings and silence over what to say.
When you first start speaking to someone again, it can feel overwhelming to have them detail everything they’ve been up to: ‘Hi. I’ve swam in a tank next to sharks, bungee jumped in Hawaii, got married in Italy, worked in France for a year and now waiting for pregnancy confirmation. Oh, I split with my first husband, he cheated. So, what have you been up to?’
Some friends disappear out of your life due to mental health and negative circumstances. It might have been tough (possibly embarrassing) to watch you succeed as they struggled to find work or feel content. That’s something to be sensitive towards.
When you don’t want to reconnect with old friends
You say good riddance, buh-bye toxic, slam the door and toast their departure with wine. Then suddenly, knock-knock, that negative friend has appeared and wants to chat.
Not everyone wants to reconnect. That’s a hard pill to swallow if you’re the one reaching out, and also difficult when you have no desire to rekindle. And that’s why you should think about expectations beforehand.
Publication Muse spoke to its writer Steve Errey, who suggests deflecting communication with “bite-sized phrases”. Without too much detail, you can turn down requests to meet by saying it’s not a good time; otherwise thanking the invitation, but stating you’ll have to decline. You don’t owe a full explanation.
My overall feelings
Since my twenties, I’ve waved goodbye and said hello again to several friends. Some helped ease a curiosity, others reminded me why we’re better off not speaking, and some have become meaningful once more. Such is the case with my very first best friend, who has almost lived the same life as me, despite living on a different continent.
Old friends – you never quite forget them; you never stop seeing them. Usually, they remain in their digital vortex. Occasionally, they find their way back to you.
How many old friends have tried to reconnect with you? Do you always like when they message, or have you ever wished they didn’t?