"Let's catch up soon!"
We've all said it before and we'll all say it again. In passing, it's easy to suggest; you run into a former classmate on the street and leave the brief conversation with the ephemeral line and loose promise of reconnecting. You may also be guilty of the "let's link up sometime" or the non-descript parting, "keep in touch!"
At the time, we usually mean it. Social media and technology have supposedly made it easier to stay connected through email, Facebook, and the myriad of video chatting options. But so quickly are these intentions lost in the routine of the everyday -- when you've spent two minutes flipping through a friend's recent photo album on Facebook, you're less likely to schedule a catch-up phone call. We're more connected, but we struggle to stay involved in each other's lives.
This problem is especially relevant right out of college. I graduated last May and parted ways with a group of close friends. We had been an integral part of each other's lives since orientation - barely a day went by where I didn't see someone from this friend group, which we lovingly dubbed the "Barrett fam" (named after our freshman hall). So by the time September rolled around and I realized I knew nothing about what the Barrett fam had been up to that summer, I decided something needed to change.
Inspired by a friend, I started weekly life updates with the Barrett fam. Each week, one person sends an email to the whole group detailing what's been going on in their life. Usually these updates contain the basic details - I'm in Providence, working for a start-up, I'm not prepared for the New England weather - but it also gives people the chance to open up about what's going on in their lives behind the scenes. I've been able to connect with friends going through similar post-grad struggles - even consoled someone who's just plain sick of the Tinder dating scene.
These life updates give us a reason to connect each week, even if it's just to say "hey, thanks for writing!" They allow us to stay involved in each other's lives with the lowest form of commitment. Sending one email every few months is not at all threatening and getting a message from a friend every Sunday evening makes for a pleasant end to the week. But an unforeseen issue with these life updates was the burden of coordinating them; what I thought would be an easy task quickly turned into a 6-month-long coordination nightmare. I'm constantly forgetting to email reminders out and have to hop from Google doc to Excel spreadsheet to Word doc to orchestrate all the information.
There had to be a better way. Without any platforms designed for this purpose on the market, I realized I would have to build a better way. Now I'm trying to build KIT - an easy way to keep in touch with friends.
The chances that the whole Barrett fam will live in the same building again, and thus the odds that we'll be able to recreate our experiences from college, are slim to none. Yet weekly updates keep that supportive network of friends going long after graduation. I hope that by building KIT, my funny little college family and many other friend groups will be able to keep up that supportive network for years to come.
Plus, now I can say "let's catch up soon!" and actually mean it.
Molly Adair is a 2014 Venture for America fellow working as a graphic designer in Providence, RI. She wants to help other people keep in touch by building an automated life update system, KIT. Check out the IndieGoGo page, as part of the VFA Innovation Fund challenge, and help make KIT a reality.