Years ago, the primary methods of maintaining long-distance connections with family members were handwritten letters and, eventually, telephone calls. Thanks to modern technology, it is easier than ever today for families to stay connected, even if they live on different continents.
Whether your children have gone off to college or your relatives live 15 minutes from you, you can connect with them at any time from anywhere. Here are five technologies that will keep your family close:
1. Family Blogs
Family blogs are great ways to share pictures and stories without having to send mass emails or constantly tag family members on Facebook postings. Most blog sites offer free accounts, and you often have the option of having an open blog or a private version that can be viewed only by invited followers. Blogs are also unobtrusive and low commitment, as family and friends can choose when and what to view, as well as comment at their leisure. After all, you do not want to inundate people with every moment of your children’s lives. You can get started on a site like WordPress or Typepad.
2. Group SMS Chat
Set up a group chat on your smartphone. Apps like GroupMe are free and let you set up a private chat room with anyone from your contacts. Your family can have a specific date and time that you all chat, as long as everyone has a cell phone, tablet or computer with the app installed. You can sign up with your email and phone number or Facebook account.
3. Facebook Groups
Most people today — including grandparents! — have Facebook accounts. While you can visit your family’s individual profiles and share information through your status updates, you are still sharing everything with your many friends and acquaintances. As an alternative, your family can set up a group page, which is free and private, where posts can be viewed only by members invited by the group’s administrators. It is a more private, intimate and low-obligation way to share news on Facebook.
Google+ is a social networking site where you can set up a free profile, join “circles” or groups, and video chat with groups of people. You can have separate circles for your family, friends and coworkers, keeping what you post most relevant to each group. It also has messenger functions, a “local” page and an “events” section where you can invite people to functions and share photos in real time. Your family can even share a private Google+ photo album.
Skype offers free one-to-one video and voice chats, as well as instant messaging. With a premium subscription, you get group video calls, screen sharing and live customer support. Kids in New York can talk face-to-face with grandma in California, making Skype a popular platform. It is compatible with PCs, Macs and even PlayStation. You can even Skype on the go if your mobile device has a front-facing camera!
Joshua John currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s Virtual Master of Social Work program, which provides social workers the opportunity to earn an online social work degree and apply for a social work license. He also loves gadgets, movies, and all things Batman. Follow him on twitter @joshuavjohn.