"Why is that so helpful?" I asked.

"If I know what's nonnegotiable," she told me, "I don't waste energy or time debating with myself about whether to put it on my calendar and buy the plane ticket. I know I'll go."

That's a valuable idea, especially for someone like me. I usually take weeks to make up my mind, and the mere back-and-forth is exhausting.

"Also," my sister says, "I've noticed that when I consider some things nonnegotiable, other people accept it. My husband, the people I work with — they don't argue with me. And when I tell my friends that I consider a certain event nonnegotiable, they're more likely to consider it nonnegotiable, too. And so more friends make the effort, and everyone gets the chance to see everyone else."

I think her rule is very helpful. But as I thought about my own relationships, I realized such opportunities didn't always arise, and sometimes years were going by between times I would see friends face-to-face. In those situations, I've found, technology is very useful. From time to time, I hear someone argue, "Technology is terrible for relationships. Instead of talking face-to-face, everyone's typing away in front of a screen, alone." I disagree. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," and while chatting on Facebook certainly isn't as satisfying as meeting in person, it's still a valuable way to keep in touch.

In my experience, tech tools like Facebook and Twitter allow me to manage ties to a much larger group of people than I could possibly stay close to in a more direct way. Technology lets me effortlessly follow friends through many changes of e-mail and street addresses. It allows me to have brief, fun exchanges without expending a lot of time or energy. It gives me a quick way to reach out to friends and also a casual way to connect with people I don't know as well, whom I wouldn't feel comfortable calling or even e-mailing. And I'm not going to send a handwritten letter!

One example: Recently I had coffee with my friend Jane, whom I hadn't seen in many years. We first met when, for a year after college, I lived in San Francisco with my college roommate, who was dating a guy with a bunch of his own college friends, including Jane. We all spent a lot of time hanging out together.

I always liked Jane tremendously, but she wasn't one of my closest friends, and I lost track of her years ago. She told me, "You lose five people with every move" — true, in the old days! But technology has made staying in touch much easier. Indeed, Jane found me on Facebook, and we discovered that after all this time, we live just 13 blocks apart. Seeing Jane again gave me a wonderful happiness boost by reconnecting me to my past. The year I spent in San Francisco had been wonderful, but I'd almost forgotten it. Talking to Jane brought back a flood of memories and affection.

Nowadays, when I'm trying to decide how to spend my limited time, energy, and money, I often ask myself, Will this strengthen my relationships? Will this connect me to my past? I'm now far more likely to show up at parties, to send a quick "This made me think of you" note through cyberspace — or even just to revisit places in which I used to spend a lot of time.

A while back, I went to Washington, DC, to give a talk to my law school association. This trip made me happy for many reasons. I saw some of my blog-land pals from that area. I cruised around Washington, which is a beautiful city, especially when everything is blooming. Most of all, I loved being around a bunch of people from my law school. It was funny — I hadn't realized just how many references, interests, and inside jokes we shared. Sometimes it makes me sad that I've left behind my lawyerly identity — there were many things I enjoyed about that time. Staying connected to that part of my past makes me happy.