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“Out of sight, out of mind.” Does that describe your social connections? I admit that it’s true of me. We live in a time when information flows so quickly, a time when our day-to-day lives are busier than ever, that it can be difficult to keep track of our contacts and maintain our relationships. And, unfortunately, we suffer for it.

Socialization requires effort, there’s no way around that. However, these tips will provide ways for you to remember and maintain your lines of communication with friends, family, and colleagues. Don’t let poor contact management result in broken relationships.

Use the Right Tools and Systems

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The first thing to do is make sure you’re equipped properly. There was a time when you could store all of your contacts’ details right in your head, but those days are over. Even the days of black address books are over. These days, we’re more connected than ever before, thus we need something with more power and flexibility to match.

If you aren’t plugged into a social network yet, you’re lagging behind. Like it or not, social networking is becoming core to society and will soon be – if it isn’t already – the preferred method of staying in touch. For personal relationships, use the ones that most of your friends and family use, whether Facebook The (Very) Unofficial Facebook Privacy Guide The (Very) Unofficial Facebook Privacy Guide Time to lock your Facebook settings and private profile information. Facebook doesn't make this easy, however; features are constantly added and the default for each new one seems to favor transparency instead of privacy. Read More , Instagram New To Instagram? Top Tips For Newbies New To Instagram? Top Tips For Newbies When you’re getting started on Instagram, there are a few tips and tricks to bear in mind to make sure that you hit the ground running. The popular app is part photo-sharing site and part... Read More , or Twitter The Complete Twitter Guide The Complete Twitter Guide This guide tackles every Twitter feature, tip and trick you can think of. Learn to work the interface, how to tweet from your desktop, as well as cool Twitter bots and funniest people to follow. Read More . For business, you’ll want to look at LinkedIn.

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Managing all of this contact information is a pain, which is why you should also consider using a tool like Plaxo, which is a universal address book for the social age. With it, you can store your contacts from multiple social networks and it will automatically update your contacts’ information as it changes. It’s the closest thing to a digital Rolodex.

Online calendars, the most popular being Google Calendar Get Organized This Semester With Google Calendar Get Organized This Semester With Google Calendar Read More , are often overlooked as a useful tool in non-business contexts. With it, you can set up schedules and appointments, automatically import events Awesome Things You Can Automatically Import To Google Calendar Awesome Things You Can Automatically Import To Google Calendar A calendar keeps every aspect of your life focused in one place, allowing you to worry less and accomplish more. Here are some useful ways to import important information into your Google Calendar. Read More , synchronize with Windows Live How To Sync Windows Live & Google Calendar How To Sync Windows Live & Google Calendar Both Google and Windows Live calendars can be synced with the other calendar service, allowing you to see your calendars in one place. This can be useful for effortless syncing – for example, if you... Read More , synchronize with iOS Google Calendar Won't Sync With iOS? Try These Fixes Google Calendar Won't Sync With iOS? Try These Fixes After spending weeks looking for a solution as to why Google Calendar refused to sync certain calendars with iOS, it turns out there are a couple of fixes for what is a rather common issue. Read More , and more. Use it to plan and manage your social meet-ups.

Whatever tool helps you to track your contacts and stay in touch, use it. Just remember that tools are only one variable in the web of social dynamics. There are deeper issues that lend to social fallout, such as the emotional component (or lack thereof).

Cultivate the Emotional Connection

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Think about your preferred method of communication. Is it a phone call or a text message? Would you rather shoot instant messages or meet up and chat in person? Do you prefer email or VoIP? Maybe online message boards How We Talk Online: A History of Online Forums, From Cavemen Days To The Present How We Talk Online: A History of Online Forums, From Cavemen Days To The Present Let’s take a step back and think about the wonders of modern technology for one second. The web has made it possible to participate in near-instant communication on a global scale. Join me as I... Read More ? For most of us, our communications are screen-to-screen more often than face-to-face or even voice-to-voice.

Believe it or not, this is a problem. We’re losing a certain level of closeness and intimacy in our relationships because of our preference for text. It adds distance. That might be fine in a business context, but it can prove quite detrimental between friends and family. This deterioration in emotional connection can influence the “out of sight, out of mind” fallout.

But it’s unreasonable to cease emails, text messages, and instant chat, so what can we do instead?

Use photos for contacts. This is equally applicable for personal and business contacts. It can be as simple as tying your contacts with their social network profile pictures How & Why Do You Choose Your Social Networking Profile Picture? [You Tell Us] How & Why Do You Choose Your Social Networking Profile Picture? [You Tell Us] The profile picture you display to the world online, usually via social networking sites, can say a great deal about you. People can and will make instant judgments based on the image you have chosen... Read More , but for maximum effect, try to set each contact with a photo of their face. Do this on your phone, on your calendar, on your email, on everything. You’d be surprised how much of an impact this can have.

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Learn about your contacts. Not exactly necessary for people whom you already know, but for acquaintances and professional contacts, this really helps. The more you know about someone, the more “real” they seem, and this helps build that emotional connection.

How to go about it? Read their public profiles if you can. If appropriate, strike up conversations with them through email, phone calls, or even physical meetings. As a bonus, they’ll learn more about you in the process and you’ll be more “real” to them as well.

Be involved in your social networks. It’s one thing to “follow” your contacts. It’s another to keep up with them by reading their feeds, their walls, their streams, etc. Is it a lot of work? Yes, but it does pay off. Not only do you learn more about them in the process, it provides opportunity for conversation.

Keep notes. It might sound strange at first, but there are some real benefits to reap by taking notes. How many times have you browsed through your contacts only to wonder, “Who is this?” Asking them to reintroduce themselves can be embarrassing for you and insulting to them, which might even lead to a sour relationship. Avoid these moments with cursory notes. Every contact management tool has a field for notes.

Clear out old contacts. Some relationships last forever, but many do not. That’s just how life goes sometimes. Every once in a while, delete your old contacts so you can focus your energy on current contacts. Better to have a few strong connections than a plethora of weak ones.

Reach Out and Follow Up

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Managing your online contacts is just as much mindset as it is action. Do you want to build strong online relationships? Ultimately, if you answer in the negative, no amount of advice will help you. For those of you who lack the mindset and want to develop it, what can you do?

Reach out. Every online interaction has to be initiated by somebody. If you’re never the initiator, your relationships will suffer. Ideally, the split would be 50-50 between you starting conversations with others and others starting conversations with you. Practically, however, try to initiate more often than not.

Follow up. Relationships consist of a series of interactions. One is not enough. Follow up on past conversations and continue reaching out. Each time you do, the relationship will evolve further. With that being said, keep the context in mind. Business interactions should be less frequent than personal interactions for the most part.

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Don’t be afraid. Fear might prevent you from staying in contact with others. Whether you’re thinking of sending a text message, a private message, or an email, be bold about it. This is easier said than done, of course, but important all the same.

Set up reminders. If your online relationships rarely sit at the forefront of your mind, consider setting a few regular reminders How To Set Follow-ups & Reminders On Emails Without Installing Anything How To Set Follow-ups & Reminders On Emails Without Installing Anything Email and speed go hand in hand. So when you need to quickly schedule a message for later or send yourself a reminder to follow up on something, turn to these two simple services. Read More to catch up and follow up with your contacts. Even a brief message here and there can work wonders. After a while, when it turns into a habit, the reminders may no longer be necessary.

Do you need to implement all of these tips to maintain healthy social connections? No, not necessarily. However, if you’re finding it difficult to manage all of your online contacts, hopefully these tips do help.

Have any other tips? Share them with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Social Ring Via Shutterstock, Address Book Via Shutterstock, Anonymous Profiles Via Shutterstock,

  1. The Stranger
    September 21, 2014 at 3:38 am

    I'm both an introvert and a misanthrope. I'm an only child, and so were my parents; neither of them have ever even used a computer before, so obviously none of them have ever used Facebook either. Plus, that's pretty pathetic if someone needs social media to stay in touch with their parents. Is it really such a burdensome task to pick up the phone and call them, or if you live close, stop by every once in awhile? What's next, Skype at Thanksgiving dinner? Christmas tree apps?

    I don't have the time or patience to bother with friends either. Blathering nonsense over coffee about how their cat died or there's a sale at J.C. Penny's or did you see X on Orange is the New Black last night. Who. Frigging. Cares. Social networking is banal and overrated. I don't care about someone's stupid chain letter or their political views. I was brought up to never discuss politics, religion or sex with others as those are private matters best kept to oneself. I don't care either about what some actor or musician is eating for lunch or what their political views or charity campaign du jour might be. I guess I'm just immune from the plague of "FOMO" that permeates this oversharing society. This article may state that I'm "falling behind," but I'd rather cherish my solitude and peace and quiet than have my innermost thoughts drowned out amid a din of chattering idiocy. A pox on Facebook, Twitter, iCloud and all of their derelict ilk.

  2. Jeremy G
    August 25, 2014 at 7:11 am

    I've been using the Universal Contact Manager (ucm.me) for a number of years now. It's rather clunky, but haven't found any action it couldn't perform.
    I do kind of resent the dig against Introverts. As an Introvert and being able to dive into a task to the exclusion of all else, contact management has never really been an issue. Though UCM and other such tools take the hassle out data manipulation, there is nothing quite as peaceful as spending an evening or two in Excel to organise your contacts.
    Nevertheless, I look forward to giving Plaxo a try.

  3. Saikat B
    August 16, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Introvertedness for me is not exactly shyness but rather something to do with personal synergy with someone else or in smaller groups. As an introvert myself, I have found that I do better in 1-on-1 networking. Even if it's a video chat.

    NPR had a nice post on this.

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