How To Keep Up With Your Not-So-Close Friends Without Facebook

While some of us grew out of Facebook years ago, many still turn to the platform for everything from celebrity gossip to updates from their friends and family. According to Statista, the social media platform had more than 2.9 billion monthly active users as of the third quarter of 2022. About 179 million people in the U.S. still log on to Facebook, and it remains the most used online social network in the world. But just because people you know log on doesn't necessarily mean it's right for you.

There has been an abundance of research conducted on the impact of utilizing social networking platforms, including Facebook. Many researchers have focused on how it affects the mental health of young adults, but they're not the only demographic susceptible to social media's effects. Most platforms are designed with addiction in mind, per McLean Hospital. When you log on to a site like Facebook, your brain's reward center is activated upon the release of dopamine. Knowing the potential to receive this "high" again in the future, you may find yourself returning to a platform like Facebook multiple times per day.

If you've kicked your social media habit but still have friends on platforms like Facebook, is it poor etiquette to let those relationships fade? Here is how to keep up with those not-so-close friends without needing to cringe and sign up for an account.

Don't underestimate the value of video chats

Although it's not exactly the same method of connecting, technology tools like Zoom and Skype still give us the ability to connect with our friends and family from afar. Best of all, video apps provide us with face-to-face interaction that can help nurture existing relationships. Those who own iPhones already know that the FaceTime app provides similar benefits, allowing us to literally see the smiles on the faces of our loved ones. "When we do video calls, we can see the other person's facial expressions and body language, and all of this communicates to the overall message we receive," online therapist Danielle Wayne explained to Apartment Therapy.

While it may not seem like there is a big difference between text and video communication, Wayne emphasized the importance of little things, such as laughter. When you hear and see a friend's laughter via video, you'll both be able to feel and bridge a connection. Furthermore, a video chat gives you the opportunity to talk without distractions. In a face-to-face conversation, you're more likely to pay attention and deeply connect to a person, even from afar.

Send your friends thoughtful text messages

Depending on the platform, social media gives us multiple ways to interact with our friends and family. However, it's these very functions (such as "liking" or resharing posts) that can make platforms like Facebook detrimental to our health. "Even if you remove the likes, there continue to be opportunities for comparisons and feedback," psychologist Dr. Jacqueline Sperling told McLean Hospital. "People still can compare themselves to others, and people still can post comments." When people have the opportunity for comparison, it can fuel emotions ranging from anxiety to depression.

To cut out the self-judgment and doubt that comes with social media, text messaging can be a valuable alternative. As simple as it sounds, keeping up with your friends and family via text can help you maintain relationships like you would on Facebook — just in an older-fashioned way. A 2022 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes indicated that text messages can unlock the enjoyment associated with basic social connection. "Even sending a brief message reaching out to check in on someone, just to say 'Hi,' that you are thinking of them, and to ask how they're doing, can be appreciated more than people think," study author Peggy Liu told The New York Times.

Use email to deepen your connections to others

These days, it's much easier to click a button on a social media platform like Facebook and "add" someone as a connection. This is one of the reasons many people prefer to use social networks to keep up with loved ones — it's quick, easy, and almost effortless. However, there's still something to be said about the value of an older form of communication, such as email. In fact, email — though often viewed as cold and emotionless — can be quite the opposite, according to The Atlantic. Additionally, what you write in an email can help you deepen your connection to the recipient when you take the time to find the right words.

A 2016 study published in Computers in Human Behavior specifically set out to determine if email created psychophysiological responses in those who wrote them. In the end, the researchers found that writing an email could bring out stronger emotions in people, even compared to leaving a voicemail. Because email presumably requires more thought and its contents can be modified, it has the potential to bring out certain emotions in the writer. "People know it's harder to communicate emotion in email, so as a result [they] have to be a bit more explicit," study author Alan Dennis told The Atlantic. Email may be just the means of communication for you if you're interested in deepening relationships without using social media.

Don't be afraid to make an old-fashioned phone call

Today, our smartphones have become much more than just a tool we use to play a virtual game to kill time. Aside from social media apps like Facebook, we can use our phones to browse the internet, order takeout, and even book a vacation. That being said, some of us forget that one of its core functions can actually be helpful if we're avoiding social media usage — the phone call. As psychologist Dr. Kate Muir explained to Stylist, humans are naturally driven toward rich forms of communication. Although face-to-face interaction is more ideal than a simple voice call, giving someone a ring still has its benefits. "A phone call offers the nearest amount of information to a face-to-face interaction: we can hear when someone is smiling or frowning," Dr. Muir told the publication. "You don't get that on email or instant messenger. It's easy to misinterpret a text message."

Furthermore, while sending a text message may be quicker, experimental psychology professor Charles Spence notes that some aspects of a phone call simply cannot be replaced. "If I hear somebody's voice I know they are a real person, not a bot," Spence told Stylist. "Text and picture communication may be more efficient, but it can also bring distance and a sense of isolation."

Carve out time to see friends in person when possible

Facebook makes it easy to catch up on what all of your friends and family members have been doing in a matter of minutes. However, it isn't a necessity if you want to nurture the relationships you have with others. One way you can keep up with your friends without using a tool like Facebook is to bridge the gap — literally. If it's possible to physically see a loved one in person, catching up over a cup of coffee can do wonders for your relationship. "Real, face-to-face time with people [is important], and the activity part of it makes it fun and enjoyable and gives people an excuse to get together," Dr. Stuart Lustig, the national medical executive for behavioral health at Evernorth, told Time Magazine.

A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, which was led in part by Dr. Lustig, set out to determine the links between social media usage and loneliness. In the end, the researchers concluded that excessive usage of social media — to the point that it infringed upon in-person socialization opportunities — directly contributed to greater loneliness. Dr. Lustig highlighted the importance of even small in-person interactions, such as chatting with strangers. "There's an opportunity to grow those kinds of quick exchanges into conversations and into more meaningful friendships over time," Dr. Lustig told Time Magazine. "People should take those opportunities wherever they possibly can, because all of us, innately, are wired from birth to connect."

Think about putting pen to paper

If it's been quite some time since you last jotted something down on a piece of paper, the thought of writing an entire letter might initially seem daunting. However, there is something to be said about letter writing, its benefits, and how it can deepen relationships. As the Saturday Evening Post explains, physically writing out your thoughts can increase the meaning behind your message. "Place all of your attention on your letter's recipient. What stands out about that person? Good memories? Shared accomplishments? Commonalities?" author Barb Schmidt told the outlet. "Thoughtfully reflect upon what you want to share with that person about yourself. What feelings do you wish to elicit? Love, support, humor, etc.?"

Because a letter is a tangible item, you also reap the benefits of having something physical to hold onto when you correspond with a person in this way. Many people choose to keep letters over time, and the value of letter writing still can't be replaced with today's technology.

Consider using an alternative to Facebook

If you're not excited about the idea of signing up for Facebook but you haven't ruled out social media entirely, you may want to consider keeping in touch with people on a different platform. Some social media apps are simpler to use and focus on entirely different features, such as video or photography. If there is an alternative platform that you feel more comfortable using, see if you can find your friends on that particular network.

These days, there are also several tools designed for smartphones that can help you limit your social media usage if you're concerned about the risk of addiction. Some apps can track your screen time and alert you when you've been using one for more minutes than you intended. If you begin to experience symptoms when you log on to social media, such as anxiety or depression, do not hesitate to bring them up with your doctor. There are resources that can help you maintain your mental health as we all navigate the digital world.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.