By Miriam Marks
Graduating students, have you found that all of your interactions are plagued by one question? As you reminisce about freshman year dorms, late-night study sessions and crazy parties, is your mind overshadowed by one thought? And do you feel vaguely anxious because, whenever you interact with someone, you’re busy thinking just one thing:
“Am I going to keep in touch with this person after graduation?”
Your parents may have told you to invest in your future. Well, now it’s time to start investing in your social future. It’s time to pick the people who will be your lifelong companions, the people you can point out to your grandchildren as the “friends from college.” So look around at all the people you’ve met and liked over the past four (or five or more) years.
Will you keep in touch with every one?
Probably not. Let’s be honest: after graduation, you won’t see some of these people ever again. They’ll go off to other cities, states and countries. You can try to keep in touch, but it probably won’t work anyway. In twenty years, you’ll walk by each other at Trader Joe’s, and you’ll think, “Oh, wow, that person looks like a 45-year-old version of [name of college acquaintance]!” But is it your friend? It might be hard to tell by then. Just in case, you’ll make sure to avoid eye contact.
Fortunately for us, we’re graduating from college in the Facebook era. Even after graduation you can continue to follow your friends’ Instagram uploads and see what they’re eating, where they’re shopping and who they’re hanging out with every weekend. You’ll know where they live and what they look like for many more years to come, which will make that casual run-in at the grocery store a little bit easier to handle.
As for those friends you also interact with outside of Facebook, there are ways to actively keep in touch. Go ahead and schedule Skype sessions and phone dates — it’s a great way to regularly check in with friends in those faraway places. Letters? Sure, you can write those too. Google+? Some people use it. Gchat? It’s like it was invented for people who are bored at work.
The thing is that when you graduate, you’ll have to figure out how to keep communicating with those friends in faraway places. They won’t be down the hall, across the street or an inconvenient 10-minute bike ride away. That’s when you’ll have to decide not just whether to keep in touch but how often to do it. Would you Skype with someone every day? Call someone every hour? Gchat someone every minute?
But keeping in touch requires time, and keeping in touch with more people will take up that much more time. Especially when these friends are in other places, you may realize that you’re spending hours in front of your computer or on your phone. Your efforts to catch up with people cut into your opportunities to explore a new place, to meet new people or (if you’re in grad school) to study a lot more.
In one extreme scenario, you might find that your entire social life has turned into a never-ending cycle of keeping in touch with people from college. Whether you’re making an effort to stay connected with a lot of people, or whether you’re keeping up constant check-ins with just a few of them, you’re neglecting whatever else it is that you could be doing in the present.
Keeping in touch obviously isn’t bad, and you likely won’t find yourself in the situation above. But it goes to show a larger point: you’re only 23-ish, and you’re still changing. You have many new things to see and do and many new relationships to make; keeping in touch with a bunch of your college friends is allowed to take a backseat.
Those of us who co-termed this past year have had the luxury of semi-acclimating to this new environment. And it’s not so bad to keep a little bit out of touch. Sometimes it’s even fun to run into those people who you haven’t seen in a while. At that moment, when you end up chatting with some casual acquaintance at your friend’s BBQ, it won’t really matter if you’ve kept in touch. Seeing a familiar face will be fun, and talking to someone after a few years will give you a lot more to talk about.
All this is to say, don’t worry if you don’t keep in touch with everyone. You can’t. There are too many people graduating in your class at Stanford, too many other people in the world to meet and too little time.
So enjoy your final hugs, handshakes and fist-bumps with your friends. You won’t get regular life updates from them the way you did the past few years, but that’s just a part of graduating. And that’s also the fun part of it — when you do reconnect after months, years or even decades of not keeping in touch, reuniting will feel that much better.
Miriam hopes she didn’t just persuade you to not keep in touch with her. Go ahead, keep her updated at mirmarks “at” gmail “dot” com.