Woman at computer
Photo: Thinkstock/Jupiterimages
"I'm writing because I'm an old friend of Angel J.," the e-mail said. "I see from your site that you know her; can you put us in touch?"

It wasn't the first time we'd served as a point of reintroduction. Our wedding photos, posted in 2000, constituted the first searchable online appearance for many of our guests. But Angel's face wasn't in our wedding photos; in fact ,her face wasn't on our site at all. What her friend had found were the medical photos of Angel's gum reconstruction procedure. Angel thought the pictures were funny and gross, and when she showed them to us, she loved our suggestion that we put them on our website.
One lesson you might draw from this is to never give incriminating photos to someone with their own website. But the lesson I want you to draw is that it's fantastic to have your friends write about you—to do whatever makes you visible or findable on the net. Unless you're in witness protection or have a stalker in your past, it's better to be findable, because findability is the easiest way to encourage continuity in your personal relationships. But, of course, any story of online (re)connection involves at least two people: the findee and the finder. Connecting, reconnecting and staying connnected require some effort on both sides. 

Here's how social media can help you stay in touch:

Be Google-able
If you Google "Alexandra Samuel," you'll probably find I account for nine out of 10 of the first-page results. But for years, my Google hegemony was disrupted by another Alexandra Samuel, who hovered in the number two or three spot. Her presence? A long-ago article about a ten-year-old Alexandra who was a member of the Boston Computer Club.

Little Alex didn't do much to compromise my Googlability. "Alexandra Samuel" is an uncommon enough name, and my online presence—including the alexandrasamuel.com domain—is extensive enough that I've always been easy to Google. My husband wasn't as lucky. When he first tried to register his domain, not only was robcottingham.com taken, but so were robertcottingham.com and even robertalancottingham.com! The lesson here: Don't name your kids until you're sure their names are available as .com domains. If your own parents weren't that far-sighted, establish a domain and online identity using a consistent and unique variant of your name, such as JohnNorbertSmith or LauraQThompson.

Keep Your Contacts Up to Date
Most people change their phone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses from time to time; once you've been out of touch long enough to miss a move or two, it can be hard to re-establish contact. Get all your current e-mail addresses into a couple of systems that will help keep your contact information up-to-date; Plaxo will automatically update your contact list with changes from anyone else who is a Plaxo user; gmail will import your contact list into other web services like Twitter and Facebook so you can stay in touch instead of losing contact.

More ways to connect with social media