Rekindling friendship can be hard when your last text is forever visible

Friendships ebb and flow — perhaps because you've grown apart, perhaps because you've screwed up, and perhaps because you've simply failed to properly nourish them, even though you still cherish them.

In the past, there were ways to re-engage with a friend that were conducive to making a fresh start. You'd pick up the phone, call your friend, offer apologies or entreatments as needed, and (hopefully) jointly resolve to put the past behind you and try again.

But these days, I sometimes find myself hesitating, because when I open up my Hangouts or Messenger apps to text an old friend ... there it is, staring at me: our last conversation, sometimes from several years ago.

And if that last conversation didn't go well, it can be hard to feel hopeful about reaching out again, because you know that it is visible not only to you but to them also.

Texting is great for communicating with your more frequent contacts. Having a history of your chats with a friend always available, always clearly visible whenever you open your texting app makes it easier to jump right into the flow, without having to do the constant back-and-forth of, "Now what were we talking about the last time?"

But for friendships that have trailed off for whatever reason, that history can be an impediment to reaching out.

Perhaps that's part of the reason why apps like Snapchat and Whatsapp, which offer ephemeral messages that disappear after a certain time, have grown in popularity.

A few years down the road, your last conversation might be merely a distant memory, rather than an always visible part of the permanent record of your mutual communication.

Granted, it's not as if phones don't exist anymore. It's a little weirder nowadays to phone someone out of the blue, rather than text, but if that's what it takes to rekindle a friendship ... I don't mind picking up the phone.

But that doesn't completely solve the problem. Because even after re-establishing contact by phone, those last text messages or chat messages we exchanged are still sitting there, and they will always be sitting there. It's still going to be awkward to text them again, knowing they'll see the history pop up. Will this need to be a phone-only friendship from this point forward?

Perhaps as text and chat providers build out the next generation of apps, they can find a way to help us migrate our friendships without migrating our chat histories.

About Shaun

Shaun Gallagher is the author of three popular science books and one silly statistics book:

He's also a software engineering manager and lives in northern Delaware with his wife and children.

Visit his portfolio site for more about his books and his programming projects.

The views expressed on this blog are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of his publishers or employer.

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