At the start of the pandemic, feeling isolated, as one does when in isolation, I decided to finally do something I had been intending to do for a long time: Reach out to my friends and family whom I have friended on Facebook that I haven’t talked to in forever. Considering how busy my life has been, this meant basically everyone.
The problem is…when you haven’t talked to someone in a long time, sometimes it’s difficult to know how to start up a conversation without being incredibly awkward. I’m one of those people who likes to pretend nothing has changed in a relationship, even if it has been years since we’ve talked, and so, knowing that other people aren’t the same, I often found myself at this weird impasse of wondering whether or not they still considered me a friend.
This issue of Schrodinger’s Friend is why I hadn’t talked to many of these people for years.
However, I stuck to my guns and started reaching out, going through my friend list on Facebook and hitting one person a day with a message (meaning this has been going very slowly and there have been more than a couple of periods of me not sending the messages out, meaning I’ve probably only hit about 50 people so far).
It was/is awkward, and I never really know how best to go about starting these conversations, and so, originally I went pretty big with my opener. It was basically: “Hey, just awkwardly reaching out to say I miss you and love you and stuff.”
What I actually sent was quite a bit longer than that minimalist paraphrase because I get extra talkative when I’m feeling awkward. But, I don’t think it was a terrible pick-up line…just maybe not the best way to reach out to someone I haven’t had a conversation with for years.
I wrote multiple different versions of this opener, a new one for each person I contacted, and each time felt just as awkward as the previous. For the people I had kept in relative contact with over the years, it served well to kicking up a new conversation and spending some time catching up. For others, it often went by unanswered. It was because of this, I actually stopped sending the messages out for a while. I loved catching up with people, but it felt like I was getting far more misses than hits.
But the problem was, I really wanted to catch up with everyone (okay, I’ll be honest…almost everyone). I used to have a fairly busy social life, back before having to be both an adult and a parent. As of late, my social life doesn’t often get much farther than interacting with my kids, my kids’ friends, or, very rarely, my kids’ friends’ parents. Don’t get me wrong, these are all the coolest people I could ever talk to…but, well, I miss my friends.
About a month ago, I came across this idea of sending out random notes of appreciation. I really liked the idea, but at the same time, I think appreciation works a whole lot better if you have something specific you can note your appreciation for. A new idea began percolating in my head as to how to start conversations. Something equally as awkward, but perhaps not nearly as necessary for me to put my heart into an awkward message of generalized love.
I send people a gif of a woman saying “I Appreciate You”.
Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that this is the laziest method by which to strike up a conversation with someone. Sending a gif, unaccompanied by any message, through Facebook Messenger, to someone I haven’t talked to in years…it’s really just asking to be ignored.
And it does still get ignored. But I think my success rate in catching up with old friends has actually improved. Mostly because people just assume I sent the gif to the wrong person and feel the need to point that out.
Hook, line, and sinker, I guess would be the really weird and creepy way to respond to that moment.
But the point is, it starts the conversation. And it gives me an opportunity to express my love for my friends and family in a way that wasn’t as available to me when starting out immediately with the love note.
I miss the love note though. I’ve been trying to be more directly appreciative of people in my life, even if they aren’t as directly involved in it nowadays. And this gif feels far more impersonal than the notes I used to write. So, I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m having a far better opportunity to catch up with people I miss. On the other, it’s far more awkward to send the love note after we’ve started conversing and it then goes unsaid.
So, just know, if you’re one of the people who have received a gif saying “I appreciate you”, that’s me telling you I love you.
And now it can be awkward again 🙂