Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to stay connected with old friends, classmates, and neighbors. But being “Facebook friends” with someone or following them on Twitter doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actively in touch with that person.
That’s why it’s often surprising when someone you haven’t spoken to in years contacts you out of the blue. Perhaps you’re hit with nostalgia remembering the fun times you shared, or maybe you’re bitter because you had a falling out. Either way, you must decide whether to answer or ignore the message.
While there may or may not be a reason your old contact is no longer a part of your life, it can sometimes be a healthy and positive thing to reconnect with someone who once meant a lot to you, especially if you’ve gone through some hard times lately. If the person used to make you laugh, smile, or generally feel good about yourself, inviting them back into your life can rekindle those feelings, and remind you that no matter what you’ve been through, someone from your past still cares enough to reach out.
On the other hand, speaking to someone who had a toxic emotional effect on you may be the last thing you want to do, even if you think they’ve changed for the better.
If you’re unsure of how to handle this unexpected reconnection, here’s how to stay safe, sane, and happy.
Want To Talk? Research Them And Re-establish Your Rapport
It’s often perfectly innocuous when an old friend reaches out. Something likely happened in their life that reminded them of you, and they want to see how you’re doing after all these years.
If you’re open to chatting, do some research to see what your past acquaintance has been up to. Their social media profile is a good place to start – you can see where they live and work, whether they’ve gotten married or had kids, and how they’re spending their time. That way, when you respond to them, you have something more insightful to say than a simple, “How have you been?”
“People like to know that they have impact and make a difference, so having a basic working knowledge on their accomplishments over the past few years goes a long way,” life coach Kali Rogers said in a Bustle article. “Validating their efforts with a compliment opens the doorway to dialogue and reconnection.”
Don’t Want Anything To Do With Them? Tell Them To Back Off
On the flip side, you may know that this person has no place in your current life. You could delete the message without answering, but let’s say you indulge the sender in a conversation. You quickly discover that this person is dwelling too much on “old times,” and you’ve both changed too much to have any kind of meaningful relationship now.
“It can be tempting to believe that a backlog of happy memories should make it easy to pick up where you left off,” writes Thomas Mitchell in a Sydney Morning Herald article. “But if that’s not the case, you owe it yourself (and the friendship you shared) to call it off.”
It’s OK to tell an old friend you’re not interested in staying in touch, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. However, if your rejected acquaintance isn’t getting the hint, you may need to take some more serious measures to get them to back off, like blocking them and setting your own profiles to private so they can’t continue to digitally stalk you.
Concerned about a person who’s trying to get back in touch with you? Use BeenVerified to search their public records and make sure you know who you’re getting involved with.