The phrase “keep in touch” is the most oft-used phrase among people who will probably end up, well, never keeping in touch. They know they are not pursuing a meaningful relationship or friendship or continuing a meaningless one, with the recipient of the phrase; but the phrase is uttered regardless at the end of an encounter or episode of their lives. Just in case – who knows what they might need to extract from you in future.
So to hedge their bets, they say “keep in touch” as it probably sounds benignly sincere but uttering it is probably the closest to any action they will ever take, to keep in touch.
In that case, they should know there is another benign word closer to sincere, that is more versatile.
“Take care” . Whoever is the author of this phrase, is brilliant.
It sounds more final and does not promise anything that remotely requires follow up except on the recipient’s part. So for people you never really intended to take up with after the encounter, it is a sincere and final goodbye. Your kind thoughts will be much appreciated but no follow up action expected. Your heartfelt sayonara was for them to take care of themselves and not you, them.
But with people you do intend to take up with, a follow up call, e-mail, sms will carry the sincerity to reality. So the “keep in touch” in this instance, is unspoken but implied.
Of course, there are some people who use “keep in touch” more sincerely. But for the most part in my experience, it is for the uneasy closure with people who are not that close but who they may still want to keep tabs on, i mean, keep in contact with the other. This because they might very well end up doing so in the distant or not too distant future, when the need arises to be nosy and confirm some news or gossip they have just heard, or to add fodder to feed the existing gossip bullet train. Or they might want something from you. If none of the above, then going back to premise, it is just uneasy closure for people who really don’t want to keep in touch.
My conjecture is this. With people we want to keep in touch with, we will do so automatically, without having to say it. It will be a natural extension of a friendship already established from the previous encounter. No matter the timespan of the next encounter, we merely pick up where we left of. We will even say “take care” at the end of an exchange, as well 😉