Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Margot Besnard: Keeping in touch should be more than Instagram ‘likes’

Margot Besnard, a senior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist. 

“Did you keep in touch with Ben?” my mom asked. I had just returned from a semester abroad, and my mom and I were driving home from the airport. Ben is one of my good friends at GW, but for some reason, I didn’t know how to answer my mom’s question. Since I left D.C. at the end of the fall semester, Ben and I liked each other’s Instagram photos, and I commented on a Facebook status of his, but I wasn’t sure if that counted as “keeping in touch.”

Whether a friend just graduated and left D.C., or a roommate is going abroad next year, there is probably a person with whom you hope to maintain a relationship. It’s important to consider what “keeping in touch” really means, especially when you’re interacting with friends mostly on social media. Keeping in touch in the digital age can seem as simple as a “like” on Facebook, but maintaining relationships takes more active, direct communication.

When I first arrived in Vietnam for my semester abroad, I spent many jet-lagged mornings scrolling through Facebook and Instagram to “like” photos of friends who were enjoying days at GW or having their own study abroad adventures. It was a fun way to see glimpses of home and places around the world in a few minutes on my phone. As the semester went on, I kept up my regular scrolling habit and contributed my own photos of new sights and friends in Vietnam to my friends’ social media feeds.

This kind of passive communication – broadcasting information through photos or updates without sending it directly to any one person – is what makes social media an efficient way to stay connected with hundreds of people over long distances. One thing I’m realizing, though, is how easy it is to let passive communication create the illusion of a connection or relationship without actually keeping in touch close friends.

A modern definition of “keeping in touch,” should emphasize an active and direct exchange of information. By that standard, I only kept in touch with about four people while abroad, two of whom were my parents. There’s no question that active communication, such as video chatting or even texting, takes more time and effort than passively communicating. It was easier to post photos than it would have been to schedule a conversation with every person I care about, but looking back on my time away, I could have spent less time scrolling through Facebook and more time exchanging thoughts and experiences directly with my friends.

I’m not advocating that we give up our “liking” habits altogether, but I do think it’s helpful to distinguish between different kinds communication to remember that a balance of active and passive communication is necessary.

If you’ve said goodbye to someone with whom you hope to “keep in touch,” you shouldn’t forget to reach out once in awhile. Chances are that a friend would love to hear from you, but he or she might think from your Instagram photos that you are too busy having fun to chat.

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