That sucks Locke, I hope your friend gets his feet back on solid ground.
OP - I used to after a break I took in Cata. I was curious about how some guildies were progressing but didn't want to actually hop on a character they know to ask since they were partly the reason I stopped logging on. Through MoP though? Never did. The people I enjoyed playing with stopped playing in Cata and never picked it back up again so there really isn't nobody I am interested in keeping an eye on. I imagine if I had a friend that was still playing I would occasionally see how his character was doing.