How to Find Long Lost Friends Online

There are many reasons why friends lose touch. Marriage, moving, and other life situations can come between people. But in today’s society, it is easier than ever to reconnect. The need for expensive services such as private detectives is a thing of the past. Regardless of the circumstances in which you met, and the reasons why you lost touch, the internet is an amazing resource to find people, sometimes in minutes.

How to Find Long Lost Friends Online

So if you have a list of long lost friends, here’s a guide to starting your search:

What you Already Know

Make a list of facts about your friend. Anything you can remember can be useful: relative’s names, school name, old email address, or even an old phone number. All these tidbits together will help you determine how to move forward.

The Digital Footprint

The internet is like a muddy road in which we always leave a track. Every interaction is recorded and attached to you forever. So the first step is to find the tracks that your friend has left behind. While you can choose the free path and start with search engines and social media, the amount of information available online can be hard to follow. To make things easier, you can visit checkpeople and let their algorithms work for you. Through their website, and with as little information as your friend’s first and last name, you can get a comprehensive report that includes current and prior 1addresses and other means of contact. Their service is fast and cheap, and for a monthly fee, you can perform unlimited searches.

Your search might very well end here. But if you found several records that may match your friend (same name, same age, etc.) you can continue through social media. If a long time has passed since the last time you saw your friend, a profile picture may not be enough to determine if you are following the right lead. Try combining search terms (name + last known address, or name + highschool name).  Using several different networks is also a good idea. While some people may want to keep their personal lives private, there’s a good chance that they use social media for professional reasons.

Search engines have advanced settings that can be really helpful too. For example, you can perform an image search that can point you in the right direction. Or search for an address or telephone number. Remember that anything can be useful at this stage.

Another good idea can be to check sites such as Classmates, which focuses on gathering schooling information. There are many similar services, so you can try with a few of them. If you don’t find the information available online, you contact alumni associations.

The Power of the Viral Post

The internet loves a good story. If your first searches are not giving you more information, you can try to ask for other people’s help. A viral post has some characteristics, such as evoking emotion and telling a story. Ideally, it includes a picture. Start by sharing with people within your network. In your post, be specific and ask people to share (remember to change your privacy settings to “public”) so your chances of it getting to your long lost friend are amplified. A good idea is to use social media groups (for example, alumni association groups, or local boards). While your friend may not be a part of those groups, your post will have a broader reach when some of the group members share it in their personal pages. Local media outlets can pick up your story and help boost visibility by featuring it on television or radio.

There is one important thing to remember about viral posts and social media: well-meaning people can see your post and think they know the person you are searching for, but many times it turns out it is not the right person. Similar names or similar facial features can be confusing. Before jumping into conclusions, double-check your information.

Emotional Preparation

Some people believe that the search is the hardest part of the process of reconnecting with long lost friends. But in truth, the hardest thing is to actually get in touch. When a search turns complicated, it may be because the other person is very private and does not want to be contacted. There are several cases in which people find their long lost friends only to find out they don’t want to stay in touch, or they still hold a grudge for a fight that happened decades ago. The first time you approach someone, you have not seen in a very long time can be very emotional and should be handled with care. Understand their boundaries and start with small steps. There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to rekindle your relationship, but the opposite is possible too.  In any case, at least you’ll know they are doing okay and can move forward with your own life.

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