Online I got some friends who I regularly play games with, these aren't just people on the internet you meet for me. I know a lot of things about them and we've been friends for a long time.


Suddenly out of no-where one friend just disappeared, I haven't heard from him in weeks and I'm starting to worry.

I'm planning on digging on the internet in order to find his phone number and call him. However, I feel like this is a breach of privacy and I'm afraid my friend might be bothered by that. There is also a big age difference, I'm much younger than him, so I may not know what is acceptable in these situations. There is also the cultural difference since he lives in the USA and i live in the Netherlands, I don't know if this is acceptable in the US.


So, how can I call him in order to get news from him without having him become angry at me for this breach of privacy?

Notes :

This situation luckily already got resolved, I've heard back from him eventually, he lost his internet for some time. I do believe this question could offer something to the site so that's why I put it in here.


3 Answers 3


First, if you have the possibility, I would strongly encourage you to choose an asynchronous mean of communication (SMS, leaving a voice message, etc...) instead of a synchronous one (a phone call).

With synchronous communication, the risk is that the other person isn't in a good mental state to receive a call from you. With asynchronous one, since the other person can choose when to read the message, this problem is less important.

Also, asynchronous communication allows the person to calmy process the message you left them before answering you (so it give them a chance to calm down if your message made them stressed).

I know I prefer asynchronous communication because it gave me time to think before answering and prevent me from saying something that I might regret.

Now, a little bit about me:

Since I moved out of my parent's house, my mother always worries about me. I have some mental health issue and I have a hard time taking care of myself.

Very often, my mom will call me and tell me that:

You should do sport, it's not good for your health to do nothing.

She says that very often and it always makes me angry. However, every time she says:

I'm worried about you

It makes me less angry.

So, my advice would be:

If went to contact your friend, first apologize for the breach of privacy. Then, make sure to tell him that you only did this because you were worried about him.

I'm sorry I don't have more advice, but I never was in a similar situation before.


Think twice before sharing any information with anyone (especially over the internet).

The disclaimer being said, the answer is:

Call them if they gave you their number. Respect their privacy if they have not shared such information with you.

When I was young a rule of thumb was that my very best friends would know my family personally and the top ones have a copy of my home keys, my best friends would know my parents and my siblings phone numbers and perhaps their addresses, and my just-friends would only know my phone number and my home address.

All those who did not know how to reach me, or my family, or even where I lived, they were meant to be that way. They could know a great deal about me and we could have had crazy things in common: It still did not make them my friends.

It is possible that things have changed in the era of web 2.0. However, if you consider someone your friend, you may want to consider making sure that you have a secure/guaranteed way to get in touch with them, or enquire about them, or even be contacted should anything happen.

I am a believer of being proactive, so that when you wish for something, be the first to do it.

This is in summary how I do it.

Start easy:

Hi, we have been seeing for a while now, and I consider you my friend. I would like you to know how to reach me. My number is 0123456789. Feel free to call me anytime.

And with time increase the dose:

Hi again. In case you need something, you can always call me. If you can't reach me, try with my [close person]. Their number is 0123456789

And further

Hi! I wanted you to meet my [close person]. Let's arrange a meeting.

And, considering that the number of cases we get because of this is simply astronomical, let me repeat it:

Think twice before sharing any information with anyone (especially over the internet).

  • To clarify, I already had his facebook and later when he eventually returned he said he wouldn't mind me knowing his phone number May 22, 2019 at 6:50

TL;DR: Ask people you've played with at the same time if they know him. If the game has official gaming groups (for example, World of Warcraft's guilds), ask around in his guild. Follow leads they give if they offer leads instead of saying they have the info. If they have his contact info, trust them to know whether it's better for them to give you that information and you relate that you got it from them, or if it's better to give them the message and have them pass it along. You can have the message be your contact info and the fact you want to talk to them if you'd rather not give the information out directly.

Sorry for the long TL;DR; I fail at brevity.

The online gaming groups I've been in generally had a bunch of small groups of players who knew each other in real life. These would be mentioned from time to time, but generally in passing. For example,

I have to go pick up SomeOtherPlayer1 from work, I'll be back on in an hour.

Take note of these. If you have a chat log that just stores all conversations you have indefinitely, that's really helpful, because most people have difficulty remembering to periodically update their real life contacts diagram. But if you can manage to update the who knows who database, it can be really helpful. Note that this shouldn't just be about who knows people IRL; if there's a couple of people who don't know each other IRL but they're playing together much more frequently than other people, that's also noteworthy.

Once you have this database, you know who to ask if one of your online only contacts goes missing. Remember it's probably not a huge deal if none of them tell you anything. It's not just about you finding out what their status is, but also about letting them know you care enough to ask, but are respectful enough to not go crazy trying to track them down.

If you don't have a database like that, but you do know who you've frequently played with at the same time as them, that may work as a stand-in.

As an example of how I've seen this work, there was one guy in our group (I'll call him Stabby) who was a really avid player, but apart from our large group activities, he seemed to keep to himself a lot. He was one of the few people with no IRL contacts. And one day he just vanished.

One of the other players (Fuzzface) noticed his absence after a few weeks, and asked our group leadership if anyone knew what happened to him. Nobody knew what happened to the guy, but the social leader noted that he was often in the same place as one particular active member of the group (Frosty).

Fuzzface asked Frosty about Stabby. Frosty explained he didn't really know the guy - but his IRL friend Daisy did. She wasn't into the group activities, so her involvement had been missed, but Frosty was only frequently in the same place as Stabby because they were both grouped with Daisy.

Daisy claimed to have heard nothing. But as soon as she finished that reply, she messaged Stabby, who was actually online as a different character, to let him know Fuzzface was looking for him. Stabby sent Fuzzface a message a few hours later and just said he heard from somebody that he'd been missed.

In the above example, the social leader was maintaining a who knows who database. Its primary purpose was to know who to ask if various key players (like Stabby, Fuzzface, and Frosty) were missing when it was time for their scheduled group activities. That database did have a link between Frosty and Daisy, because Frosty talked about Daisy, but Stabby didn't, so there was no link. While in the large group activities, Stabby just talked about how to best stab things with other players who stabbed things, and well, he stabbed things. A lot.

It's probably worth mentioning that FeelBetter, Diabolical, Shooter, and HitMe also asked Daisy about Stabby, and she told them she didn't know. And told Stabby. And then they asked her again, and again, and she relayed that to Stabby, too, and Stabby decided to not contact them.

  • To clarify, I already had his facebook and later when he eventually returned he said he wouldn't mind me knowing his phone number May 22, 2019 at 6:50
  • @Ed Grimm - Pardon me asking, but how does all of this answer the OP's question? "So, how can I call him in order to get news from him without having him become angry at me for this breach of privacy?"
    – Tim
    Jul 13, 2019 at 8:44
  • @Tim I added a summary at the top, so you don't have to wade through the whole thing. Is that better?
    – Ed Grimm
    Jul 17, 2019 at 2:22

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