In the good old days, I would say that the chances were pretty slim. You could maybe search the telephone directory or take out a classified. Reunion parties were the best bet to meet the school friend who sat next to you in class.
These options remain, but what has come to the rescue are social networking websites that make finding old friends for free very easy. Sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or even a general people search engine have made searching out old friends easier than a needle in a haystack job. That is, if you manage to find your old friends in these sites.
What other ways are there to search out old school friends and plan a reunion bash? Check out the people search at the end of this one.
With all our preoccupation with social places like Facebook and Twitter, we miss out on alumni sites that can lend a hand. Alumni sites are built around schools, colleges, and geographical areas. With this narrower focus, it’s a place to be if you want to find an old friend or wait for someone to find you.
Try these four out:
Alumni.net is a global alumni site with 5 million members from 102,000 organizations around the world. The site has been online for 16 years, so there’s a good chance that you could locate someone in its database. Registration is free and is a 3-step process.
In the last step, you get to search out and join an organization (school, college, company etc). The organization search can be made country-specific. You then get to drill down to the right one from all the results that are thrown up. The results are arranged alphabetically. Instead of giving a school or college name, you can search with a specific keyword that’s unique for your institution.
Once you are in, you can search for other members by name (also by maiden name), organization or location. Each organization also has a member directory. The Alumni.net Bulletin Board is another place to send out an SOS if you are searching for someone desperately.
The one thing I disliked about this site is that it forces you to give extra information during the registration process, like job related information, so that a resume can be set up at a sister job site; or the necessity to invite at least two friends.
Alumni.net is a global site with a huge list of schools, colleges, and organizations. That increases the chance of finding old friends for free online.
Classmates.com leans towards United States, Canada, and a few international locations. With 40 million members it is said to be a popular destination for alumni hunting. The site has a free Basic membership that lets you search for old friends in school, college, or the military. After you choose the institution, you are directed to the registration page.
With a free membership, you can post your profile and search out friends. You can read the message board and read the chatter that’s going on. You can check out the Events and Reunions page for anything that’s upcoming. You can say a public hello that gets posted on your friend’s bulletin board. You can also send an email, but the person has to be a paid member to read it.
Though the Gold membership opens up all the tools, the free membership could be enough for picking up a trail on a lost friend.
Batchmates.com is an India based website but it has a global membership. It is India’s largest online alumni site with a membership of 2 million. Though small, the second highest membership figures are from the US. You can post your profile and search for your friends by name or institute or company. You can also go through the names of the members listed batch wise. If you get the right person, send out a personalized mail. Addresses are not given out by the site and access to each other is via Batchmates.com’s email or a short note feature (Hi Note).
It’s also easy to setup your own network of friends once you have managed to search out a few.
At Friends Reunited you start searching for friends with whom you have shared a common school, university, military service, workplace, club, or a street address. The 19 million member strong website is UK centric and covers a few other countries like South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong etc. You can search by name or go through member lists.
The site allows you to send messages or use the Chat program to talk to anyone who is online. The site also gives you a Timeline to add your own events, add photos, videos, and comments. It’s a nice way to share memories with your friends. Social interaction gets a fillip with Groups that are about common interests, like the recent elections in the U.K.
Friends Reunited used to charge a small subscription but now finding old friends is free.
The advantage of alumni sites is that you can search school friends who are profiled with their real names instead of hiding behind nicknames as on many social sites. Also, most of these sites have a maiden name field which is helpful when you consider that your female friends would have changed their names after marriage.
Yes, the disadvantage remains that most of these websites are country specific or are populated with records from one. It really helps if your school, college, or institution has an alumni site of its own. Still, these alumni websites remain as web corners which could do with a search.
We know that the search for a long lost friend could turn into an obsession. Try out these people searching clues from our archives too :
And do let us know of your preferred alumni site.
Image Credit: soundfromwayout