One of the nice things about seeing friends and family regularly is keeping up to date with the day to day of their lives – the Grandkids recitals and soccer games, new haircuts, small trials and milestones. When friends and family are scattered across the country, the weekly phone call may only touch on the major events, leaving a void. Luckily, today’s technologies make day-to-day contact and updates easy. Here are five technologies that can help you stay connected and in touch with out-of-town friends and family:
- Video calls: Making your phone conversations with friends and family via video calls using programs like Skype, FaceTime, Gmail’s video call option or others is easy and adds an important visual element to your communication. Apple products like Mac computers, iPhones and iPads come with built-in cameras, while webcams are available for PC computers at a reasonable price. Once you have your camera (and in some cases a microphone), all you need is to set up an account with the program of your choice, and get your friends and family to do the same. Then when you talk, you’ll get to see expressions, new looks and more – almost as if they were really there with you, face to face.
- Facebook or Twitter: Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter allow you to see updates and photos from friends and family, as well as share your own. Facebook has many privacy options that can allow you to control who sees what and vice versa so that everyone can feel comfortable staying connected.
- Digital photo frames: Digital photo frames display your favorite photos of friends and family all in one frame. The images cycle through the photos in the inserted camera memory card. However, the latest generation of photo frames are wirelessly connected, meaning friends and family can send over the latest photos, and they’ll automatically display. For example, if your kids are on vacation, they can send photos straight to your frame, allowing you to stay connected visually to family, wherever they may be.
- Email: Email has largely taken the place of the handwritten letter. And while almost everyone uses email to write notes, share photos and links, or forward jokes and information, it’s important to respect personal preferences of friends and family when using email to stay in touch. Find out which address they want you to use, since most people maintain a work and personal or other addresses. Grandchildren may check their Facebook messages or use texting more than email. And some friends and family won’t appreciate being forwarded jokes or political emails that get passed around. Let your preferences be known as well!
- Texting: Texting via cellphone, especially for youth, has become a preferred mode of communication. While it’s not good for long communication, it can work well for short notes like “Happy birthday,” or “How did the game go?”
If you’re not sure how to use a particular technology, there are many how-to video demos online, or ask a friend or family member to sit down and give you a lesson. Explore what technologies work best for you to stay in touch with loved ones across the country and around the world.