ADHD, Prospective Memory and Facebook

Keeping and maintaining friends can be a challenge when you have ADHD. One reason is because of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ factor.  When you are seeing friends every day, perhaps at work or in University classes, it’s easy to stay connected and make a plan to hang out.

However,  if that regular contact changes, you change jobs or graduate, it is very easy to lose touch.  This has nothing to do with the quality of your friendship; instead, it’s due to prospective memory. Dr Ari Tuckman says prospective memory is ‘remembering to remember’.

When someone who doesn’t have ADHD thinks, ‘I wonder how Max is,’ they remember that thought until there is a convenient time to pick up the phone and call Max.

For someone with ADHD though, they might think of  phoning Max but then the thought completely vanishes. It doesn’t stick around long enough for them to take action and pick up the phone.  Having visual remembers really helps prospective memory, which is why seeing someone regularly is helpful.

If you have ADHD, other factors can get in the way too, for example social anxiety, anxiety around making phone calls, feeling like you don’t have anything interesting to say etc.  This means that even if you could phone Max, the second you think of him, you might talk yourself out of making the call.

Of course, it takes 2 people to keep a friendship alive, so the onus isn’t always on you. However, if your friend has been doing the initiating to keep in touch and  pulls back,  the friendship could fizzle out.

Having a friend that you genuinely like and you get along with is special. Even though there are millions of people in the world, everyone is different and you can’t form that type of bond with everyone. Plus it can take years to create a shared history and get to  know each other well. This is why it is worth finding a way to keep in touch.

The answer is Facebook. I know lots of people have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

However, if used  strategically, it is a very helpful way to support your  prospective memory and keep in touch with friends pretty effortlessly.

There are 2 big dangers of Facebook. One  that you get a glimpse into other people’s lives and then feel bad about your own.  Research shows that the more time you spend on Facebook, the more dissatisfied with your life you can become. The second is that FB can  be a huge time suck because of all the links to videos, articles etc.

The ADHD friendly way to use Facebook to keep in touch with your friends.

1) Create

Create a FB account if you don’t already have one.

2) Update

If you do have an account, update it a little.

Put a fresh photo up, make sure your basic information is current like the city you live in and so on.

3) 5 friends

Think of 5 friends you would like to stay in touch with or reconnect with. If you aren’t  FB friends at the moment, make a friend request.

4) Mark them as ‘a close friend’

Go to their profile, and mark that they are a close friend.

This means you get notifications when they post something.

5) 10 minutes a day

Everyday log into FB for 10 minutes. Set a timer if you have a tendency to get caught up reading articles, taking quizzes and watching memes.

While you are there, do 2 things:

A)  If it’s a friend’s birthday, wish them a  Happy Birthday.

You don’t need to write a long meaningful  message if that feels too overwhelming. A quick ‘Happy Birthday’ message on their wall is perfect.

B)  When a friend posts something personal, a photo or status update for example (not an generic quiz), engage a little. Press the like or leave a comment.Like buttons are great  if you are never sure what to say.

Volia! Thats it.

Log out of FB, and come back again in 24 hours.

6)  Post photos

About once a week, post a photo of something that is happening in your life. Post more often if you feel inspired. Just a little slice of your life, like your dog or  a nice scenic view. This helps your friends to feel connected to you.

7) Increase

When you get into the swing of this, you can increase the number of close Facebook friends.

Do you use Facebook to keep in touch with your friends?

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  1. Sheila says:

    Thanks Jacqueline, I think I will benefit from this one, thank you, esp. the ‘close friends’ bit (and 10 mins a day). I use Facebook, and find it of immense value keeping in touch with US family in particular (I live in Ireland) – but not everyone is on Facebook. I have also started using an app called Reminders. It took quite a while to set up initially, and it is for people I want to remember to contact at periodic intervals, but I might otherwise let drift. It also reminds me of birthdays, so I can send a card or text. I have only been using it about 6-8 weeks, but it is an active prod and I have arranged to meet a few people, or phoned them for a chat, when I might otherwise have let things drift..and drift. I am hoping it will take the effort out of remembering to keep in touch.

  2. Melissa B says:

    Good morning Jacqui,
    I too have a love/hate with Facebook. I too also have a deep dependence on visual reminders. I waffle back and forth on whether I want to keep up with Facebook or not as I also have an addiction to approval that Facebook makes a lot worse. That being said, I like your suggestions and I like the spin you put on Facebook as a tool to use to help with my prospective memory. If I can do what you suggest maybe I can spin the tool to actually help me feel closer to people. Thanks for a great article!

  3. Paris says:

    Dear Jacqui,
    My son attends Bishop’s University! Not too far from you! Anyway, I have never heard of “prospective memory” but wow, I know I have it! I have to keep all my work or notes out in “sight” or I totally forget they exist. I thought that was just a “me thing”! Unfortunately I have major anxiety (treated) and Facebook puts me into a panic. I know that sounds ridiculous but I have tried using it several times over the years with negative results. Sadly, there are people out there – family and friends – who ONLY use FB and will not reply to texts or emails so they are out of my lives. I don’t understand the allure of FB. I know people who spend hours on it and keep track of “friends” from 30 years ago even though they don’t care about each other. Your suggestions on how to efficiently use FB (or any social media) make more sense. It should be used for “good” and it should be used to only contact people you truly care about and want in your life…not just a way to find out who is aging or divorced (ha ha). FB settings allow you to keep your closest or REAL friends available to see your photos and updates while keeping virtual strangers or unwelcome former friends at bay! You mentioned going onto FB for 10 minutes – people with AdD/AdHD have issues with keeping track of time as you have mentioned in other articles so I highly recommend that your readers use a timer (every cell phone has one) with a fun ringtone to remind them to get back to RL (real life!) or they will get sucked into the rabbit hole of cute kitten videos and their friend’s complaints about the weather, the kids or their jobs! I personally only use text and phone calls and keep my true friends limited otherwise communication is overwhelming and guilt sets in. And no one has time for that! Jacqui, thank you for all you do! Your name in my email always makes me happy because I know you have something interesting and positive to say! Keep up the great work and stay warm! Paris in Mass

    • Hi Paris! Bishop’s University isn’t far away at all! Exactly! using a timer will make sure you stay focused on the task in hand 🙂

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